If you’re just getting into hydroponics, you’ll already be aware that it’s a great growing method, but it’s often a little different from the other techniques and sometimes you have to take a slightly alternative approach. That might leave you wondering when to transplant seedlings with hydroponics.

Depending a little on the plant, you should usually transplant seedlings when they have two or three sets of true leaves, and they are about three inches tall. By this point, their roots should be strong enough for the seedling to handle being moved out of soil and into water. At this point, you can move them.

You might also like: The Best Hydroponics System For Indoor Gardening

Why Should I Use Hydroponics For Seedlings?

You might be wondering what the benefits of planting seedlings in a hydroponic system are. There are quite a few. According to GreenOurPlanet, hydroponic systems are great because they:

  • Allow you to control the pH and the balance of nutrients in the water
  • Can help you make use of vertical space that might otherwise be wasted
  • There’s no need for pest control, which can be challenging with seedlings in normal conditions

Young seedlings will benefit from hydroponic systems, and you will also be able to use significantly less water because the system is a closed loop. Even if you are just gardening at home, reduced water use can be a great asset, especially if you are focused on being eco-friendly and minimizing your impact.

Did You Know: hydroponics can save up to 90% of water and this could prove crucial to environmentally-friendly farming in the future.

Young seedlings will benefit from hydroponic systems, and you will also be able to use significantly less water because the system is a closed loop. Even if you are just hydroponic gardening at home, reduced water use can be a great asset, especially if you are focused on being eco-friendly and minimizing your impact.

Did You Know: hydroponics can save up to 90% of water and this could prove crucial to environmentally-friendly farming in the future.

Why Does The Timing Matter?

It may seem that timing shouldn’t really be that important when it comes to transplanting seedlings.

However, it is quite important, because your plants are at risk of transplant shock if they are too small to handle the water and the movement. You don’t want to lose a seedling because you haven’t waited long enough before transplanting it.

Of course, plants vary enormously, but most seedlings are easiest to transplant when they are around three to six inches tall and have a few of their true leaves.

Before transplanting, check that what you are looking at is definitely the plant’s true leaves; their first set of leaves is often nothing like their final leaf, so make sure you aren’t misjudging your plant’s growth.

If your plant is growing in a very small container, you may need to transplant it before it has got three sets of leaves in order to stop it from getting too root bound. However, you should be aware that the young roots will be much more fragile. Damaging them could cause stunted, weak growth, or even kill the plant.

Did You Know: according to Illinois.edu, the first leaves of a plant are called cotyledons, also known as seed leaves. They rarely look anything like the plant’s normal leaves.

How Should You Transplant Your Seeds Into Your Hydroponics System?

So, if your plants are ready, how do you move them into a hydroponics system?

How Should You Transplant Your Seeds Into Your Hydroponics System?

Step One

First, you will need a bucket of clean water. You should then gently free your plant from its pot and shake off excess soil. Rinse the soil away from the roots in the water, handling the plant carefully so you don’t damage the roots. 

Don’t get the stem wet. If you can’t get all of the soil off, leave it rather than risk damaging the roots.

Step Two

Spread the roots over a hydroponic netted pot. You will need about a third of the pot filled with the soilless medium to start with, and once the roots are in place, you can add more of this medium. Keep adding it until the seedling is settled in place. Give it a very gentle tug to see if it is stable.

Step Three

Fill the reservoir with nutrients so that your plant has food. What your plant needs will depend very heavily on what kind of plant it is, so make sure you have researched specific guidelines to help give your plant the best chance of healthy growth.

What Is Transplant Shock?

You have probably heard of transplant shock before – it can happen outside of hydroponics, and is a common aspect of plant care. It’s basically when a plant is moved from conditions it is familiar with to a new environment, and this new environment stresses it.

Transplant shock isn’t good for your plants, but it will often occur to some degree when you move your plants around. Even plants that are being moved from soil into more soil can suffer from transplant shock. Moving from soil to water is an even bigger shock to some.

However, you can reduce the problem in a few different ways, such as:

  • Don’t transplant in warm or cold conditions, or into warm or cold water. Room temperature water and mild conditions should help the plant and avoid stressing it.
  • Handle the plant gently. Don’t snap roots as you try to ease it out of its container and remove the soil. Avoid breaking stems, and don’t squeeze the plant.
  • Transplant seedlings when their soil is moist but not soaked. They should be almost at the point of needing more water when you move them, but not dry. Once in your system, you should make sure the tray they are in has water flowing through it.
  • Don’t place newly transplanted seedlings in bright light. Seedlings take a while to recover from being transplanted, and they will have plenty of food available through the nutrients you are providing. Bright light may cause stress and won’t benefit the plant.

Tip: if you want to grow different kinds of plants in your hydroponics system, you need to learn about cool weather crops and warm weather crops. These need very different treatment, so distinguishing which kind you have is crucial to success.

Final Thoughts

Seedlings should be transplanted when they are a few inches high and have a couple of sets of adult leaves. Transplanting earlier than this is likely to lead to root damage, which could kill the plant.