Acclimate (ac·cli·mate): “To become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions. Also to ‘harden off’ a plant.”
Acclimating a plant or tree helps to avoid stress in new transplants that may not be in a dormant state when you receive them. Some plants and trees, like our potted berry plants and Stark® EZ Start® potted trees, are grown in the controlled environment of our greenhouses. When these plants ship to you, they may arrive leafed-out and already growing. This tender growth can be sensitive to things like direct sunlight and sudden changes in temperature, so acclimating them to their new environment will help provide the best start possible.
Depending on the characteristics of the variety you are planting, some species (like pawpaw trees) generally may not thrive in full sun. Prior to deciding on a plant or tree, check its sun requirements so that you can avoid damage that may be caused by planting in stressful conditions.
If your new plants or trees from Stark Bro’s arrive in a pot and already display tender leafy growth, then they were likely grown in our greenhouses. Here are a few steps we recommend you follow to acclimate these plants and trees (or harden them off) before planting outdoors:
1. Upon arrival, keep your plants and trees in the pots they arrived in and place them in a sheltered, shady spot outdoors — like on a back porch. Leave them there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day. Bring the plants back indoors each night.
2. After 2-3 days of acclimating your plants and trees, begin transitioning them from their shaded spot to one that provides some morning sun. Return them to the shade in the afternoon. If this conflicts with your schedule, try moving the plants and trees to an area that receives filtered sunlight instead, which is less intense than direct sun. Be sure that you still bring them indoors again overnight.
3. After 7-10 days, and if the weather conditions are right, your new plants and trees are ready to be planted outdoors in a permanent location. For best results, try to plant on a cloudy day.
Please note: these are general recommendations. Your particular growing environment might require a slight variation on these guidelines, since some plants can take more time (or less time) than others to harden off. Factors like the current year’s weather, individual plants, and your location may affect the process.
Now that you know about acclimating new plants and trees that may arrive leafed-out (not dormant) in the spring, you’ll help get your new transplants established as smoothly as possible. Happy planting!