CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2022

A Transplant Success Story

A transplant success story

A way to improve transplant success? Yes please! 

Silverton bluemat penstemon
By Cassey Anderson, Adams County Extension Horticulture.

As gardeners I believe we’re all endless optimists, maybe hoarders? Perhaps that’s just me! This means that we may purchase plants at times of the year that are not ideal, but who can pass up a sale or when we find a plant that's been on our list for ages? We then suddenly need to get them in the ground. For our Colorado Master Gardener Xeriscape Demonstration garden in Adams County we got a bunch of plants in June, and then again in August this year and wanted to ensure their success. 

Over the last few years one of our CMGs began experimenting with providing shade for new transplants and we’ve had an incredibly good success rate. The first year we only lost one plant, this year we have only lost two. In previous years before we began shading we lost far more. We’re hoping to start tracking more carefully in future so we could tell a more precise story, but alas have not thus far.

Pinetip Penstemon enjoying morning sun

The process we now use is simple, take a small piece of shade cloth (in our case it was a piece of the large sailcloth shades that go over decks and the like), prop it up to provide afternoon and evening protection. We left the shades up for about a month to ensure establishment. We do also practice root washing to the best of our ability (especially for plants with larger root systems, for those with less roots we knock as much potting soil off as possible). These systems prove remarkably resilient in wind and rainstorms so no real adjustment is necessary until it comes time to take the covers away. 

For smaller plants we used old plant stakes that had lost their tags with clothespins to hold the cloth onto the stakes. For larger plants such as the wax currant (below) we planted this year we used a tomato cage as a support for the shade cloth. Since this plant came with some scorch already happening, we surrounded it completely with shade cloth. Many of those original leaves have dropped but new ones have replaced them.

Wax currant came with scorch so
we took extra precautions. 

One side advantage of shading the plants as they establish has been that the soil stays a little moist for longer, particularly beneficial in our xeric garden that typically only gets watered once a week. That said, we do also provide supplemental water a few times a week in the first few months for our newly establishing plants. This is also a great way to mark new plants so that volunteers don't accidentally weed them out, and it's easier to find them for watering. 

Hopefully you can enact similar successes in your own landscapes! 

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