Tree Transplant Shock: How to Help Your Tree Recover

Tree transplant shock is a condition that can occur whenever you move a tree to a new location. No matter how carefully your plant that tree, the move from a garden center to a home is always a shock. 

However, with this expert advice from Frady Tree Care Specialists, Clemmon’s tree service experts, you can help stressed trees recover from transplant shock symptoms effectively. 

What Are Transplant Shock Symptoms? 

The signs can be distressing and lead you to believe that your tree is dying. Contrary to what you expect, the tree may not show the symptoms straight away. They might seem fine initially but then start losing leaves and looking dead. 

At this stage, tree transplant shock is in full swing, and there may be root loss as well. Fortunately, you can nurse most tree roots back to health with proper care. 

Signs to look out for include: 

  • Brown leaf tips
  • Dropping leaves
  • Premature color changes
  • Stunted growth
  • Late flower production
  • Branch dieback

If you see these signs, act immediately. Either follow the tips below or call us for a definitive diagnosis. 

Is the Tree Dead? 

You should perform a scratch test to see how “dead” the tree is. Using a pocket knife or other sharp object, make small scratches in twigs in different areas of the tree.

If the inside is green and moist, your tree is still alive. If the inside is brittle, move on to a thicker section and perform the same test. Alternatively, call us to check for you. 

How to Save the Tree

If it’s a case of tree transplant shock, your tree isn’t being a diva. The transplantation process is stressful to them because they lose much of their root system. The roots also often dry out in the shallow bags and pots at the garden center.

So, your tree was ripped out of the soil they grew up in, lost some roots, and then had to battle for moisture for a while. The longer it takes for you to bring your sapling home, the worse the potential stress. 

Fortunately, you can reverse the damage from tree transplant shock. Here’s how:

  • Water the plant deeply using at least an inch of water once a week. You don’t want to leave the soil water-logged, but you must provide sufficient water for the roots to find. 
  • Add a layer of mulch between two to four inches thick around the tree’s base. Then rake it out so that it covers the area to the tree’s outermost leaves. The mulch must be at least two inches away from the trunk and about two inches deep in total. 
  • Now think back to when you dug the hole for the tree in the first place. Was it the right size? If not, you may need to consider replanting it. Check what the best dimensions for the species are and make a new hole that size so your tree can expand, and correct heavy soils as these can restrict growth. 
  • Don’t prune the tree this season unless there are dead branches to come off. Leave shaping it for when it recovers. 

How Long Does it Take for the Tree to Recover? 

The extent of the damage determines the recovery period. For mild cases, your tree should be better in a year. Slightly worse cases will take double that time. The worst cases can take as long as five years. 

Do You Need Assistance in Helping Your Tree to Recover? 

Contact our team at Frady Tree Care Specialists at (704) 644 2516 to schedule tree health services in Clemmon, NC, and help your plant overcome tree transplant shock.


Frady Tree Care has the most reliable and professional tree services in the Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Clemmons & High Point, NC areas! Our team is a third-generation certified and fully-insured arboriculture firm. With more than 100 years of combined experience, we are the tree service experts you can trust.


Charlotte Office

8640 Charlotte University City Blvd.  Suite A3-241        Charlotte, NC 28213
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Lexington Office

402 W. 4th Avenue,    Lexington, NC 27292
Phone : (336) 236-1006

Salisbury Office

1460 Henderson Grove Church Rd,
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Winston-Salem Office

1035 Shalimar Drive.      Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone : (336) 236-1006

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