Vegetative reproduction promotes human-mediated dispersal of aquatic invasive plants as fragments hitchhike between water bodies on boats and trailers. However, desiccation of plant fragments may also reduce fitness, decreasing the likelihood of fragment survival as transport distances increase. Current inter-lake invasive species spread models do not directly consider fitness loss due to desiccation and mechanical damage of the transport pathway. Here, we estimate survival as a function of desiccation exposure for Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). Following desiccation treatments, we monitored survival and root formation of individual fragments and assessed the differences between treatments. Highest survival rates occurred for short (< one hour) air exposures and coiled fragments with root production for the coiled treatment occurring in less than two weeks, irrespective of fragment length. In contrast, fragments that experienced desiccation for more than 24 hours had little risk of surviving. Our results emphasize the threat posed by same-day overland movements of boats from invaded to uninvaded waterways, and provide managers with a surveillance radius to inform delimitation surveys arising from the discovery of a new invasion.