Before planting, how to Revive a Dead Plant

9 min readMay 28, 2021
Before planting, how to Revive a Dead Plant
Before planting, how to Revive a Dead Plant

We recommend buying saplings only from specialized nurseries. Even better, from those that have been operating in your town or regional center for several years and have a good reputation. Also, try to buy saplings that are zoned in your area and approved for local use.

But what about the situation where you buy a seemingly healthy seedling from a seller you don’t know well and upon closer inspection, at home, you find that it is not so healthy? Can there be many seedlings that are not as healthy as they should be brought back to life?

Is it possible? We will tell you that before planting, how to Revive a Dead Plant here.

Ideally, you should buy seedlings with a closed root system. They have the advantage that they can be grown all year round (in large sizes — even in winter) and in most cases, they are well developed: after all, they are not dug up for sale, they grow on their own, all the time in pots.

The main thing is to make sure that the seedlings have been growing in pots before you buy them, and not transplanted there a few months before the sale. The easiest way to do this is to gently grasp the trunk of the tree and pull the sapling as if you are trying to pull it out of the ground.

If the sapling has been growing in a pot, it will not be easy to pull out, but if it was recently planted there, it will be easy to pull out, and such a sapling should not be taken out.

Be prepared for the worst when buying seedlings in unfamiliar places. By the way, markets can also be called unfamiliar places: in fact, the seller who sold you a substandard seedling may not see you again. Sellers in the market tend to sell their goods faster and at higher prices, and they don’t think about the consequences.

With this in mind, when buying saplings always check carefully: whether there are broken branches, whether the branches are not secured with wire, whether mud has been smeared from them (this also happens). Check the place of grafting, where there should not be a strong thickening, check the trunk — no hail, which has the appearance of small ulcers.

At the roots, you can gently poke a piece of bark underneath with your fingernail to reveal light green, vibrant tissue. Look at the roots, they should also be alive and resilient and white-green in color, but if they are brown, chances are they have started to die, and recovering them will be difficult if it can be done at all.

Do not choose large seedlings with strong crowns and few berries or fruits hanging on the branches. Keep in mind that the larger the seedling, the more difficult it will be to adapt to the new place, such large seedlings will be sick for a long time after transplanting, will throw off flowers and ovaries, and in the end, you will not gain in time, or even miscalculate. Unfortunately, buyers almost always want to buy big seedlings.

But buyers are getting smarter, and the market is full of tricks — if an adult sapling doesn’t sell, we’ll use it to make a seedling. All that is needed is a short pruning, leaving the thin branches and removing the thick ones.

Yes, such success can sometimes distinguish a young sapling from an adult one only by its roots, if the roots are hidden in a container? In general, it is always necessary to think and be smart, and not to take unnecessary risks.

But while we are off-topic, let’s return to the issue of seedling revival, starting with reviving with water.

Water is necessary for the proper functioning of all life on our planet, and sometimes it can really work miracles and revive people. Water can help and seedlings, and for this reason, it is best to use soft water, such as rainwater.

If you buy a sapling, bring it home and forget about it for a few days, or do not even dig it up, or realize that you bought half-dried planting material (which, by the way, is not uncommon), as soon as possible set aside a full pot or bucket of soft water at room temperature (rainwater, melted, settling for a few days) and submerge the sapling there so that its maximum weight is underwater for two or three days. Interestingly, this uncomplicated method can even restore saplings whose bark has begun to wrinkle.

This is the first and simplest option. It is a good option, but it does not give a 100% guarantee that the seedlings will be revived. In order to restore the seedling with more assurance, it is necessary to use a solution of camphor oil to restore it.

To prepare this solution, take 20 drops of camphor alcohol and dissolve it in one liter of water. Then pour this amount into a tub or bucket, where you leave your seedlings for a few days.

There is another variant of the solution for reviving dried seedlings — it is called “living water”. To prepare living water, you need to take a tablespoon of urea, a tablespoon of calcium superphosphate, and a few drops of any growth stimulant — similar to those sold in ampoules. You first need to dilute it all in a bucket of water and then pour it into a larger container so that most of the seedlings will fit in.

This option is good because you can’t wait three days from soaking seedlings to planting, usually 15–20 hours of resurrection is enough, after which the seedlings are safe to plant.

Do not forget that seedlings revived in this way must be planted only in loose, fertile, and moist soil, in fact in a nutritious slurry, watered well for the first month and not allowed to dry out the soil, only then they can adapt and start growing.

Revive a Dead Plant
Revive a Dead Plant

If you buy a mature seedling only to find at home that some of its shoots and the top of the central stem have dried out, you should not hesitate to cut off these shoots and parts of the central conductor.

When cutting, try to cover a few millimeters of living tissue, and after cutting, make sure to protect the cut area with garden varnish or garden paint to prevent infection from entering through the cut, just as it would through an open gate.

If (after planting the seedling) the buds on it have not awakened and the buds start to wilt and dry out, there are two ways out — either dig up the seedling and just throw it away or take the risk and cut it backward, except for the stump 3–4inch(8–10 cm) high from the graft.

It is possible that the young shoots will start growing from dormant buds and the seedlings can come back to life. If this is the case, in the future you should monitor the growth and development of the buds in the remaining part of the seedling, selecting the strongest of them and growing as vertically as possible, the rest should be removed.

Subsequently, to avoid it being blown off by high winds until it becomes stronger, this bud should be tied to a support stake and sprouted from its side to form a crown.

Besides the fact that seedlings may have dried out after purchase, they are often rotten or with mold, which is not easily noticed at the time of purchase: the seller can simply remove it periodically with a cloth, but instead of the moldy spot it will appear again in a few days. How to deal with such seedlings?

1. Black cancer
Some gardeners, after buying seedlings, suddenly find brown marks on them, which is most likely the center of black cancer. This is a rather dangerous disease, so you can simply throw it away or cut it off (below these spots). As a result, you will get a severely shortened seedling, but it is alive and in the future, will most likely grow and develop well.

2. Bumps on the roots
A closer look at the roots will reveal some thickening of the roots, which may be a sign of disease and therefore is not recommended for planting seedlings on plots. It is best to remove the thickened part, even if some of the roots must be cut off.

After cutting the thickening, the roots of the seedlings are necessarily immersed in a 3% liquid solution of Bordeaux mixture, then rinsed with water and immersed in a similar mixture of humus and clay (about 500 g) (with a few liters of water, 200 g of wood ash and a tablespoon of nitroaminophosca). After such a baptism of the root system, the seedlings can be safely planted in the ground.

In the case of seedlings of Acacia or Buckthorn, root growth and thickening should not bother you, their root thickening is caused by tubercle bacilli, which synthesize nitrogen and live in symbiosis with these crops (mutually beneficial coexistence).

It happens from time to time that nurseries sell unconditioned planting material at a significant discount, for example, when such material is damaged during the digging process. Such seedlings usually have badly cut or torn roots and are actually sticking out of the stump. Is such a seedling worth taking? If you have free space and free time, then why not? We answer in no uncertain terms that it is worth it, but of course, you must be prepared in advance, as the seedlings may not survive.

Before planting, the stubs of such seedlings should be soaked in putty, and we recommend soaking seedlings whose roots have been cut short to remove the thickened parts. Next, the seedlings can be planted as usual, and then each of their shoots, including the central conductor, is shortened by exactly half.

During the first month after sowing, the seedlings should be watered daily, keeping the soil as moist as possible, but not over-watering. After a week, the seedlings should be fertilized by adding a tablespoon of nitroamine phosphate fertilizer under them, loosening the soil beforehand, and watering.

The only thing to do now is to observe the development of the seedlings: if the buds will bloom and the shoots will start to grow, this means that the root system is working and the seedlings will probably survive.

It often happens that seedlings brought by mail or from other areas become severely depleted during the journey and start to dry out, or even more often, start to simply rot due to overly careful packaging.

We have already talked about the revival of dried seedlings, but how to get rid of the rot (including seedlings purchased in nurseries)? Therefore, a good inspection should be performed after receiving seedlings. The presence of rot on the shoots and trunks can be done by pruning the shoots with rotten centers, scrubbing the centers with a wooden scraper, and then treating them with a 3% Bordeaux solution.

If there is rot on the roots, they can be cut off and this will also remove the center of the rot. If the rot has settled on the main roots and cannot be removed, they can be treated with a 3% solution of copper or iron alum.

Before planting, these seedlings can be soaked in “amphetamine stimulants” (some users use aspirin instead), for which we have given the recipe, or in a solution of any growth stimulant such as “phytohormone grower”, etc. Growth stimulants will promote additional root formation.

If you receive or purchase seedlings in late fall, it is best not to plant them at this time of year, but in the spring (especially for seedlings of drupe crops). In winter it is better to bury them in the ground, in a place free from mice, and accumulate enough snow. You can also store the seedlings in a basement at a temperature of about zero and fill the roots with damp but not wet sawdust.

If possible, try not to mail-order seedlings in winter and early spring, as they will freeze in winter and fall apart in spring, and then it will be impossible to revive them.

We hope you will find our advice useful. If you have your own experience with reviving seedlings, be sure to write in the comments; perhaps one of ThumbGarden’s readers will make use of your advice.

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Author: Ms.Geneva
Source: ThumbGarden
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