Transplanting hydroponic basil into soil

How to transplant hydroponic basil into soil

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Like us, plants show signs of stress when they move to a new environment. Switching from hydroponics to soil is a significant transition for any plant, and hydroponic basil is no different. This post educates on the challenges and ways to transplant basil plants into the soil.

Basil is a relatively easygoing herb. Thus, most hydroponic growers prefer to grow them. Growing basil in your indoor garden would also make your house more aromatic. But you may wish to replant them in the soil at some point. Often, it is to get more space and not have to worry about caring.

Related: How To Grow Hydroponic Basil: A Step-By-Step Guide

Transplanting basil from a hydroponic environment to soil is not a simple task. It’s akin to relocating a monkey born in the Amazon forest to the Sahara desert. The basil, accustomed to a nutrient-rich hydroponic system, has not evolved to absorb nutrients from soil. This transition presents numerous challenges that we will delve into in this post.

But here’s everything you need to know about transplanting.

Reasons to transplant hydroponic basil in soil

Industrial-scale growers usually don’t replant. Because it’s too costly and not in the plan unless they manage their nursery in a hydroponic system, they directly plant basil in the soil.

While industrial-scale growers typically avoid transplanting, home growers often find it necessary. The reasons for this vary, but they often include the desire for more space, the lower maintenance requirements of soil-based gardening, and the cost-effectiveness of soil compared to hydroponic systems.

One of them is to get more space. Hydroponic basil grows lush and green very fast. In hydroponics, there’s no competition for nutrients. Also, all nutrients are given in their most accessible form for absorption. Thus, hydroponic basil outgrows its hydroponic system very quickly. Even if you regularly prune your basil plant, basil will grow big and bushy in a hydroponic system. So transplanting is the only way to keep the plant alive.

One compelling reason to consider transplanting your hydroponic basil into the soil is the forgiving nature of the soil. Unlike hydroponic systems, plants in soil can withstand harsh conditions for extended periods. As the plant’s natural habitat, soil provides a more sustainable environment. This advantage becomes particularly evident when leaving your plants unattended for extended periods, such as during vacations.

Also, hydroponic systems need more care than soil. You don’t need to water the plant or remove weeds when growing hydroponically. But that doesn’t mean hydroponics is carefree. If you’re using mediums like coco peat, you should be careful that they don’t clog up the system. Basil plants die even in passive systems like Kratky hydroponics. The reason is that water is drying up faster, but soil can take care of the plant.

Also, hydroponics can be more expensive than soil. The systems cost, nutrients cost, and if you grow indoors, grow lights cost, and they consume electricity, which costs. Thus, some people want to switch back to soil-based gardening. Others may want to grow only high-value crops in hydroponics. Why would they spend a fortune for something that grows well on soil, too?

Preparing to transplant hydroponic basil into soil

Once extracted, hydroponic basil can stay in good health for a few hours. So, we must be prepared to transplant before we begin the process. Here are the items you’d need for the transplant.

  1. Pruning scissors (
  2. Scissors (
  3. pot or container (
  4. Pot mix (
  5. Garden trowel (
  6. Compost or your preferred fertilizer (
  7. Disinfectant spray or wipes (
  8. Shade nets (
  9. Organic pesticide (optional) (
  10. Water (of course)

Transplanting the wrong way can be catastrophic to the plant. Thus, ensure you have all these items in place before starting. Also, try to finish it within a short time. Don’t keep the plant extracted from the hydroponic system for long.

Please do the following preliminary steps to transplanting:

  1. Clean your pruning scissors and scissors with disinfectant wipes. This is a must, as uncleaned tools can cause infections in the plant.
  2. Make sure your plant pot or container has drainage holes. Most plant pots come with a half-sealed hole you need to break open. If you’re using another container, you must drill these holes yourself.
  3. Fill the pot with the plant potting mix. Add some compost, and then fill the rest with the potting mix.
  4. Learn about the growing medium you’re using.

How to transplant hydroponic basil into soil

Now that you’re well prepared to transplant, here are the steps to do it right.

Step I: Prune the stems of the basil plant.

Hydroponic basil has an abundance of water. Losing water from transpiration and respiration has never been a problem for this plant, but it needs to learn new things in its new habitat. Pruning can reduce water loss and give the plant more time. Pruning can also stimulate growth. You can consume the cuttings or put them in a jar to grow roots and replant them elsewhere.

Step II: Carefully extract the plant from the hydroponic system.

Extraction can be effortless in some systems but more challenging in others. For instance, you can lift the plant if it grows in Kratky. But in NFT, the roots can grow along the channel and may get entangled with the roots of the nearby plant. In such instances, you must cut off the roots, favoring the nearby plant. This is because, in the next step, we will prune the roots of the transplanted basil anyway.

Step III: Prune the roots of the basil plant

Root pruning has several advantages. In the context of hydroponic soil transplanting, it can reduce water loss. Also, the roots of hydroponic basil plants are fragile. Unlike soil-based roots, they can break easily. Pruning them would allow the plant to grow more soil-friendly roots.

Related: How To Prune Basil For A Flavorful, Bushy Plant Forever

Step IV: Remove the net cup and growing medium

Some hydroponic systems use a net cup. If you have one, you must first remove it. Basil’s root would have mostly wrapped the net cup completely. You must cut the net cup carefully without damaging the roots. Once you remove the net cup, the next and most challenging part is to remove the growing medium. You may not have to worry when using coco peat, clay pebbles, or peat moss as a growing medium. You can get away with it even using vermiculite and perlite. But rockwool, oasis cubes, and grow sponges aren’t friendly with the soil. You must try to remove as much as possible.

Step V: Plant the basil in the soil

Finally, you can plant the basil in the soil. Use a trowel (or any other convenient tool) to dig a hole in the potting mix and place the basil. Try to spread the roots evenly. It would be best if you buried all the roots. Roots left outside may catch infection.

Step VI: Place the basil in a suitable place

Once you’re done with transplanting, you should keep the basil plant in the right place. Basil loves to be in a warm, sunny place. Yet, water loss due to excess sun exposure and the transplant shock could kill the plant. You can place the basil plant in partial shade or spread a shade net above it to keep it healthy. In about a week or two, you can let the basil do a nice sun bath.

Step VI: Apply some pesticide

Nutrient uptake may be slower during the transplant. The plant needs nutrients like potassium, zinc, and manganese to maintain immunity. The shortage of these nutrients would temporarily put the plant at risk of pests and diseases. The best way to prevent them is to use a softer pesticide. My preference is to use diluted neem oil. Spray them on the transplanted basil’s foliage. This would prevent plant diseases like Fusarium wilt, downy mildew, and leafminer attacks. You could also cover the plant with an insect net. But there’s no guarantee your plant will not get wilts or viral infection.

Related: Hydroponic Basil Pests And Diseases

How to care for your transplanted basil plant

Transplanting basil isn’t over. You must help the plant adapt to its new environment and make new friends, and you should care for it for another two weeks.

I advise feeding the basil plant in the soil with the same hydroponic nutrient solution for a week after the transplant. This keeps the plant healthy until it develops new and capable roots. You could use a small concentration rather than what it used to have.

The next thing to be aware of is dehydration. Plants whose roots aren’t yet functioning well couldn’t update as much water as they need. If the plant is also vegetative, it could die fast. On the other hand, if the plant has fewer leaves, there’s less transpiration happening. Thus, the water loss is under control. This is why we pruned the stems before transplanted basil into the soil.

On the other hand, basil doesn’t like too much water, either. If there’s too much moisture around the roots, they may start to rot. Root rotting can eventually kill the transplanted basil. Thus, make sure the drainage holes are working correctly. Also, make sure it doesn’t get exposed to prolonged rain. Until the roots get firm, such problems may show up easily.

Related: Fixing Root Rot In Hydroponic Basil

Adding a shade net is another effective method to limit water loss due to heat. If the weather isn’t too hot or you’re getting limited sunlight in your part of the world, don’t bother about shade nets. Otherwise, it’s a good idea. You can choose between different shades depending on the amount of sunlight you have. Around 50% is suitable for most people, though it’s not a hard and fast rule.

How do we know if the transplant was a success?

You’ll know if the transplant was successful in about a week. It’s normal to see some withering in the first two or three days. Even this can be avoided if you provide the plant with a hydroponic nutrient solution, but the plant should be okay in a week.

You should see new shoots near the remaining leaves below the point you pruned. This is a sign of successful root growth and nutrient absorption, and it happens a week after the transplant. In two weeks, you should see the plant grow more vigorously.

If it didn’t go well, you’d start seeing symptoms sooner. The first would be leaves turning yellow, especially on the older leaves. That’s because the plant needs to take up more nitrogen. Since nitrogen is a mobile nutrient, the plant would send the available nitrogen to the young leaves. The old leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall.

In rare situations, the transplant may take time. If so, the plant may lack natural immunity due to a lack of potassium and other micronutrients. During this time, the plant may catch infections. Look for signs of downy mildew and Fusarium wilt. Thus, spraying some neem oil or other mild pesticides on the plant foliage immediately after the transplant is a good idea.

Related: How To Manage Leafminers In Your Garden


Adapting to a new environment is challenging for plants and humans. This post discussed how to transplant a hydroponically grown basil plant. Although not everyone wants to do it, there are good reasons to do it.

Luckily, basil is a relatively easygoing plant and often doesn’t die during transplant. However, our own mistakes can damage the plant. Perhaps not after reading this post.

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