Transplanting is often the most stressful time for a plant – even for hardy perennials like echinaceas. However, this practice is necessary if you are aiming for a bigger and healthier-looking plant. Another big positive of transplanting is that it prevents the plant from becoming rootbound if you are growing your young echinacea plants in pots.
If your plant looks as if it is dying after replanting, do not lose heart. In most cases, an echinacea wilting after transplant is a normal sight. All plants go through this process. And, given the right care and enough recovery time, it is guaranteed that your echinacea will bounce back to its healthy state.
Echinacea plant care basics
Echinacea is a familiar sight in prairie-style gardens and wild flower meadows. Also known as coneflowers, echinaceas are much loved for their colorful, daisy-like flowers with spiky central cones that bloom from July up until September. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies particularly enjoy the lovely petals and the fragrance of echinaceas.
There are several eye-catching varieties of this flower, which can be different shades of pink, magenta, purple, white, and yellow. This cottage garden favorite can grow from 12 to 40 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide, depending on the variety. Hence, with a wide array of echinacea varieties available, there is sure to be one that can perfectly suit your needs!
Interestingly, echinacea plants are not only beautiful on the outside – they are also super-hardy perennials. Gardeners enjoy growing these flowers because they are not finicky and are very low-maintenance. However, they do need to be watered regularly during their first year of growth. Once your coneflowers are fully established, approximately two to three years later, they become drought resistant and require less attention.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to caring for these gorgeous perennials is their sunlight requirements. Echinacea plants thrive best in zones three to nine, making them the ideal flowers to grow in sunny areas. To reach their full growth potential, they need about six hours of direct sunlight per day. They will also do well in partial shade, but you might not see as many flowers as on those grown in full sunlight.
And the last, but definitely not least, requirement to successfully grow echinaceas is the soil. Although echinacea plants are tolerant of poor and rocky soil, they grow best in moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Keep in mind that their roots are quite sensitive to constantly-damp soil, making them vulnerable to root rot issues. Hence, careful watering and regularly checking the soil are very important. If you keep your echinacea growing healthily, its risk of catching diseases and pests is greatly reduced.
Why you should transplant echinacea
Coneflowers have tap roots that can grow up to five feet deep. To keep their root system from becoming too dense, it is crucial to divide and transplant them approximately every four years.
Avid growers also transplant their echinaceas to enhance the aesthetics of another area of their property. By doing this, they can prevent rootbound issues in pot-grown echinaceas that might otherwise lead to sparse flowering.
Why is my echinacea wilting after transplant
Of course, despite all the love and care you have given your plants, there might still be times when they suddenly appear sick or dying. Echinacea leaves can start to wilt and droop for no obvious reason, which can leave you confused and a bit frustrated.
There are several possible reasons your plant might initially disapprove of its new home. One of these could be the problem:
1. Wrong timing
One reason your coneflowers might look sad and dying after being transplanted might simply be bad timing. As we have mentioned, transplanting can be a stressful experience for any plants, and even more so if done during the hot summer season.
To reduce the chances of wilting and dying leaves, the best time to transplant your echinacea is in the spring or fall, when the temperature is milder. At this time, the flowers have not yet begun to bloom, making it easier for the plant to recover.
However, if you decide to transplant your echinacea during the fall, make sure that it has stopped blooming first. This will help the plant focus all its energy on securing its roots before the cold months arrive.
2. Damaged roots
Root damage is quite common during the transplant process, no matter how careful you are in moving your plants. While this is completely unavoidable, you can still try to reduce the damage as much as you can. Remember that roots are essential for nutrient and water absorption, so the more roots your plant loses, the more difficult it is to recover.
Once you have transferred your plant to its new location, make sure to provide it with the best care possible. Protect the foliage from sudden bright sunlight by temporarily shading the plant with an umbrella. Give it time to acclimatize to its new environment before finally letting it enjoy the full sunlight.
Another great tip is to water your echinacea lightly and frequently. Be careful not to overwater it, though, to avoid drowning the roots. Too little water can also put more stress on a newly-transplanted echinacea, so make sure to water it adequately – just enough to keep it well-hydrated while it recovers.
Pruning might also help, but make sure not to overdo it! You can also remove some flowers so that the plant can focus on establishing its roots.
Lastly, a newly-transplanted echinacea might not benefit from fertilizer. It is best to refrain from feeding your plant until its roots are healthy enough to absorb the extra nutrients.
3. Your plant needs more time to recover
If you have done everything correctly and your echinacea still shows signs of distress, do not despair! Wilting is a normal reaction for newly-transplanted plants, and you do not have to do anything other than provide your echinacea with the best possible basic plant care. Let it recover and, in due time, it should bounce back to its healthiest condition.
How to transplant your echinacea
Transplanting might seem like an intimidating process, especially for new growers. Surprisingly, a successful transplant can be easily achieved if you follow these steps:
- Find a sunny location to replant your echinacea, and make sure the new area allows for about one to three feet of spacing between your plants.
- The plant must be well-hydrated the day before transplanting, so check the soil’s moisture and give your echinacea a good drink if it looks too dry.
- Dig a hole in the soil at least one foot deep and six inches wide to allow plenty of space for the tap roots.
- Gently lift the echinacea from the ground (or from its container). Be careful not to damage its delicate roots.
- If you are growing the popular Echinacea purpurea variety, then you can divide the plant prior to replanting since it has fibrous roots. However, for other echinacea varieties, dividing the plant might not be possible due to the tap roots.
- Finally, plant your echinacea in its new location. You might need some extra topsoil and compost to equip your plant with extra nutrients.
- Once you are done transplanting, do not forget to water your echinacea well. Keep the soil moist, but never waterlogged. Adding mulch might also benefit your plant to prolong the moisture and enhance soil fertility.
Most plants wilt after transplanting, and this reaction is entirely normal. So, do not feel discouraged if you notice your echinacea wilting – this does not necessarily mean you have done anything wrong! Give your plant enough time to recover and, once it pulls through, you will be relieved to see its new and healthy growth!
Image: istockphoto.com / Grzegorz Januszewicz