Can I relocate some perennials now?

Rochester, NY(Zone 6a)

I have some perennials that would look and probably do better in new locations. Can I transplant after blooming is over, or do I need to wait until fall? It's hard to remember what's what once everything is down to green or dead foliage, even with labels.
For example, I have lupine and delphinium that are too close together.

I'm in zone 6, about 10 miles south of Lake Ontario.


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

You can move just about any plant at any time under the right conditions (taprooted plants are the exception). I do it all the time. I have moved lilies in full bloom, for example, and they didn't miss a beat. I just moved feverfew and penstemons in full bloom.

But there are some tricks.

First, timing. Plan the move for very late afternoon or early evening. Less stress from the sun. Water the plant that you are moving.

Second, preparation of the site it's going to. Dig the hole for the new location before you dig up the plant. Soil amendments at the bottom of the hole? Put them in beforehand. Adding compost? Have it nearby. Water the new location.

Third: have a water source at hand.

Now, take a garden fork, put it near the roots, and lever the plant out of the ground. Shovels cut. Move from one side of the plant to the other. You are attempting to get the entire plant out of the ground, roots and all.

Now be quick (like a bunny, as my mother used to say) and put the new plant in the ground, compost and water it. Then go tend to any disturbance you made to the plant that was near it.

Water them both, but no fertilizer for a couple of days. Then use diluted fertilizer.

BOTH plants will love you. If you take all the roots and some soil they may not "know" that they were moved. The will just react happily to the new elbow room.

You can do this!

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Another trick- I have found if the weather is cool and cloudy they do better. If I have to do it in hot sunny weather, I create a bit of shade for several days by putting a lawn chair or something over the plant, or on the west side. Right now I have a big garbage bin next to a little tree I planted. Doesn't look great but it does the job.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Donna gave good directions. The only extra thing I do is put down some Preen and mulch the plant. Then, I water it. The mulch helps keep the loose soil from washing away and, of course, keeps the roots cool and moisture retentive.

I sometimes use a laundry basket to put over the newly transplanted plant if it is in a lot of sun and heat.

Also, I often cut the plant back by half or a third to allow the plant to direct its energy to establish the roots. Of course, I have also moved plants in bloom or right before bloom, and they continue to bloom as if they hadn't been moved. For me, that means getting as big a clump as possible with lots of soil around the roots. If it's big and heavy, I put it on an old oil tablecloth and drag it to its new location. I buy oil tablecloths on sale, last one was a Christmas one after the holiday.

Pequannock, NJ(Zone 6b)

I like the pitchfork idea! I recently got one to weed with but the weeds hardly die after I pull them out with the fork! They keep on growing. Maybe I should use it for transplanting instead.

One thing I do is water the hole and let it soak up the water. That seems to help.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Not much to add...
I use a transplanting spade (my preference) to cut the soil all around the plant, some distance out from the plant - the intent is to isolate the entire rootball if possible, and avoid breaking it up. Then lever it out, and move it to the new spot. If you can avoid breaking up the rootball (and hence severing a lot of fine feeder roots), the plant will often not react at all to the move.
Not to imply that a less-than-perfect transplant is fatal... it usually just means that the plant will wilt and will need some time to recover before it's looking good again.

This message was edited Jul 2, 2015 9:58 PM

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

The only problem with a spade is that I have sliced plants with it, especially bulbs, and I find that I can get deeper into the ground with a fork with less effort than a spade. I chopped many a plant with my spade and avoided digging up any plant I cared about for years, to the detriment of them. Since I switched to a fork I have had 100% success in this endeavor, and it's really critical at times because I am digging up the plants of clients and don't want to risk damage. I manage to get the entire root ball, feeder roots and all. I also find it physically easier to get deeper into the earth with the teeth of the fork.

Perhaps it is technique and skill. Perhaps it is the type of spade or fork. But I find that my trusty Craftsman fork gives me 100% success whereas none of my three spades were bulletproff.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)

Yes, technique and skill, clearly, not the tool. I use a fork for breaking up soil - the spaces between the tines help do that - but this clearly one of the many gardening things where there's no one way. :-)

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I bought a gardening fork this spring. I have found it very useful. I wish I had bought one years ago. I find it especially useful with digging up bulbs and tubers.

Mount Sterling, KY(Zone 6b)

Great info here you all! Thanks!
I find my fork is the only tool to use when lifting Dahlias and Cannas or other bulbs and tubers. I don't know how I could survive without it.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

When I plant mature perennials, I use the sharp shooter shovel. It works really well for me. They come in deep pots; that shovel works really well to dig deep holes.

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