How to Transplant Seedlings

Farmer tending to seedlings
How do you hold a plant when removing it from its pot? This step-by-step tutorial shows how to transplant those seedlings into your garden beds.

When weather conditions are appropriate and your seedlings have at least 2 true leaves, it is time to transplant them to your garden outside!

There are two types of leaves: The seed leaves are the first to appear, and the true leaves are the second and subsequent sets. In this picture of bok choy seedlings, the seed leaves are the lobed sets, and the true leaves are the sets with the prominent veins.

If possible, transplant in the late afternoon when the heat of the day has passed and the sun is going down. This will give the plant a long break to establish itself and get over the “shock” of transplanting before the sun comes up again.

Materials Needed

  • Seedlings with at least 2 true leaves
  • Bed space in your garden
  • A small hand rake or trowel
  • A watering can


  1. Water plants well before you remove them from their pots.
  2. Make a hole large enough so that the plant can be buried up to its first set of true leaves.
  3. To un-pot your seedlings: From a flat: use a popsicle stick or butter knife to separate a specimen. Keep as much soil around the roots as possible; From a pot: turn the pot upside down and let the plant stem pass between your second and third fingers. With your other hand, tap firmly on the bottom and massage to separate the pot from the seedling.
  4. If the roots are tightly wound into a solid mass, gently spread out the roots in all directions. This is important so that the plant does not have to spend critical energy sending out new roots when it already has a good root system. Plant the seedling.
  5. Press the soil around the seedling firmly, but not too tightly. You want to eliminate major air pockets yet allow for the flow of oxygen and water to the root system.
  6. Water the seedlings thoroughly after transplanting to help settle the soil around the roots and provide enough water for growth.Boil 5 cups of water in a pot.