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How Deep To Transplant: Planting depth for optimal growth

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Safely transplanting a plant without giving it a transplant shock and causing stress isn’t an easy task. Especially, deciding how deep to bury the plant when transplanting. 

When transplanting, the plant or seedling can be buried up to two thirds of their stems depending on the type of plant. Plants from the nightshade family like tomatoes, peppers, potato and eggplants will produce healthier roots when buried deeper into the soil which results in healthier plants.

A lot of conflicting information is available on whether or not to bury deep when you transplant your plants into the ground or pots.

In this brief guide, we have answered all possible queries related to how deep a plant should be buried when transplanting.

Should You Bury Stems When Transplanting?

Well, generally, any plant with a good length of a stem can be buried deeper. However, don’t just kill it by burying the whole thing. Your stem may start rotting if it’s buried way too deep in the soil. 

Plants whose Stem you can Bury

  • Eggplant 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Cauliflower 
  • Peppers 
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Chilies
  • Potatoes
  • Cucumber

Therefore, burying them up to two-thirds of the stem, past the first set of leaves, can be beneficial for plants’ growth. 

You can even cut/prune the leaves present at the bottom, nearest the soil, because having them closer to the soil may lead to fungus growth. 

Tomatoes are the most popular plant that will develop stronger, thicker roots when their stem is buried deeper, obviously within reason. 

The ideal practice for transplanting tomatoes is to bury their stem up to the first set of leaves. 

Plant species from the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, etc) can be buried as much of the plant stem as possible when transplanting. 

The stem of these nightshade family plants, when buried deeper, will produce roots and encourage a more thriving, healthy plant. 

However there is always some degree of pest control which should be applied when it comes to cucumbers and potatoes to help them survive.

See our detailed articles on what causes holes in potatoes and what causes holes in cucumbers for a better understanding of known pests and control methods.

I use this Miracle-Gro Potting Mix from Amazon, which ensures my plants stay healthy long after repotting. Take a look and compare it to other potting mixes.

Miracle Grow Potting Mix

Steps To Safely Bury The Stem When Transplanting:

The following steps can help you safely bury the stem of your transplanting without causing any damage to it:

  1. Start with pruning all the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of your plant. 
  1. Next, either using your hand or a tool, dig a trench. The trench should be at least 3 inches (7 to 8 cm) deep if you are planning to transplant a plant from the nightshade family, especially tomatoes. 

However, if you are transplanting other plants, dig a trench enough to bury a lot of growth nodes, at least 1 inch (2 to 3 cm) below the bottom leaves. 

And, if your transplant is bigger, dig a trench 8 to 10 inches (20 to 26 cm) deep to cover several growth nodes and provide firm support. 

  1. Now, place your cut stem carefully on its side (possibly at a 45-degree angle) in the trench. So, the top part of your transplant remains erect and exposed to light. 
  1. After placing, gently cover your transplant with a good amount of soil and pat it in place firmly. 

NOTE: Be careful of compacting the soil too much when replacing it as it dramatically affects the drainage and aeration of the soil.  See our article on compacting soil when transplanting.

  1. Lastly, make sure to water your plant thoroughly to let it settle in new settings. 

NOTE: Regarding the time of day, it is best to transplant very early or in the evening, to protect your transplant from the harsh, scorching sun as it adjusts to its new location.

Why is Transplanting Depth Important?

One of the keys to transplanting your plant successfully is choosing the right time to do it and in the right depth to place it. 

Generally, the idea is to do it before the plant begins its flowering or its growing season, that is, in late winter or early spring.

Plants are not very forgiving and can be very temperamental when it comes to transplanting them. 

If not transplanted in the correct way, you can end up with very little fruit or rotted stems. Transplanting in the right depth and water are the keys to a healthy, stronger, and fruitful plant.

When it comes to the general idea of how deep you should bury the stem when transplanting, it should be buried 1 inch or 1.5 inches (3 to 5 cm) below the bottom leaves. 

You can never go more than that except for tomatoes. You can bury them as much as you want, even almost near the true leaves. 

If you are not burying your plant deep or planting at only an inch deep under the soil, you will surely have roots going above the ground.  

Your plant will also not have firm support when it grows bigger stems, shoots, and leaves. It may fall to one side if not planted in the right depth. 

On the other hand, you should also not bury your plant too deep (that is, you have buried the whole stem and now the bottom leaves are almost touching the ground). 

If your leaves are too close to the soil, the fungus can be formed due to soil moisture. 

Therefore, it is extremely important that you bury your plant stem in the right depth when transplanting to ensure its proper and healthy growth. 

Benefits of Deep Transplanting:

Deep transplantation can ensure that your plant has stronger, healthier roots established in the soil, giving the plants good support later in their adulthood. 

However, burying your transplant deeper isn’t only about having stronger, healthier roots along the stem. 

As we mentioned earlier in the article, not all plants grow roots along the stem. 

Nevertheless, burying them a little deeper will, for sure, provide your plant other benefits such as better stem support, soil temperature, water retention, and so on. 

Down below, we have explained some of the benefits of deep transplanting. 

1. Plant Support

Transplanting is a crucial time for providing the plants essential support for future development as they grow heavier with the increased size of leaves and fruits. 

Burying the stem of your plant deep in the soil will ensure upright growth. The plant will have enough support to stand firmly against windy days. 

Plants will be able to establish stronger healthier roots, making the plant have good standing in the soil. 

Additionally, more blossoms will appear and new roots will also form to make your plant more healthy, stronger.

Planting tomatoes and cucumbers with support from a trellis can also help keep the plant upright and steady in windy conditions.

2. Ensuring That The Roots Don’t Show and is Fully Covered

As we said earlier, if not planted in the right depth, the roots can grow above the ground.

Deep transplanting will ensure that all your roots growing along the stem remain covered under the ground. 

See our detailed article on what to do to keep plant roots from showing.

Can You Bury Leggy Plants To Help With Support?

It depends on the size and type of your plant. If you have a seedling or a young plant, deep transplanting can help with providing good support. 

Leggy plants can be caused by a number of factors and one of the main ones is light. Light from our homes and porches can significantly affect how our garden plants grow.

See our detailed article on how porch light affects plants and what you can do about it.

  • Transplanting a Leggy Plant:

Like many other gardening tasks, how to transplant a leggy plant correctly takes some planning. The change of location has a direct impact on the plant. 

Since it can compromise the health of the plant. Follow the steps to safely transplant a leggy plant:

  • Before transplanting a tall, young leggy plant, it is advisable to water the plant lightly until the soil is completely moistened. With this, we prevent the root ball from falling apart a lot when removing it from the pot or ground.
  • If the container that you have chosen does not have a hole for the evacuation of the water, we must make one at the bottom. For older plants, it is advisable to place a layer of gravel or small pebbles at the base of the new container, as drainage. 
  • Cover the base of the new container with a small layer of soil. However, if you are transplanting in the ground, skip the above two steps.
  • Prune the lower leaves of your leggy plant so that we bury the stem deeper in the container or ground.
  • Dig a trench at least 8 to 10 inches deep for a tall leggy plant. If you are transplanting a leggy seedling, dig a trench 2 to 3 inches deep. 
  • Place the plant as centered as possible. However, you can also bury the stem horizontally in the trench. 
  • Next, fill the pot with more soil until the stem is 1 or 1.5 inches below the true leaves and completely covered. 

It is important to press the surface layer of the soil with your hands, to eliminate any possible air pockets that may remain around the roots and to settle the plant as firmly as possible. 

  • An abundant but gentle final irrigation is always necessary, as it helps us to compact the soil and facilitates a perfect adherence between the soil and the roots of the plant.

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