One way to reduce transplant shock is to buy seedlings that are growing in a wrinkled cardboard-looking peat pot. Then plant-pot and all.
"Peat pots gradually decompose, allowing roots through and improving the soil by adding organic matter. They're a worry only if the pot isn't well-covered with soil or if the plant is root-bound," said Chuck Marr, K-State Research and Extension horticulturist.
Any part of a peat pot that remains exposed to air will act as a wick, Marr said. It will absorb moisture from the soil around the transplant and "wick" that water up to evaporate.
"If you've got too much rim to cover well, simply tear away an inch or so. Rain or irrigation can wash away a too-shallow soil layer," he advised.
Without nursery-type care, plants that have been on the sales shelf too long tend to have two problems, the horticulturist added. They're weak, because their pot's limited nutrient supply is gone. Plus, long roots are growing through the pot's drainage hole and creating a dry "outdoor" tangle that rarely survives. Or, the roots are growing in a circular, "strangling" pattern that may be impossible to straighten out--even if they and their pot are torn apart.
"Transplants can be cheaper to buy at the end of the season because they're at greater risk. They may not survive--with or without a peat pot," Marr said.