transplanting perennials, spring or fall?

v1rtu0s1ty(5a)November 16, 2010

I've done some research and some say it's ok to transplant as long as ground is not frozen. Some say it's better to transplant in spring. I've noticed myself to forget plants in ground after winter. I was thinking of transplanting now so I won't forget where they are, how tall they grew, etc.

So what do you think about transplanting now? We've been getting air temps down to 20-40F lately but dirt is very workable.


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This late in the year? I'd take photos and move the plants in the spring. There's just not enough time in the upper midwest for perennials to establish themselves in the new location before the deep freeze sets in.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Thanks. :)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 12:14PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

dirt is what is all over you.. after you play in the soil ...

in our z5.. the issue is WINTER HEAVE ....

you can move whatever you want.. until ground freeze ... as long as you do something so it doesnt pop out of the ground in late winter ....

it is getting late.. there will be no root growth to hold them in the SOIL ... so a good blanket of mulch would keep the soil frozen on those sunny days in late winter when freeze/thaw might eject them ...

if you have pretty big clumps.. just move them..

if you are talking about small plants.. i would tend to leave them until spring ....

make sense??


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 12:19PM
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I agree with deeje.....the week before Thanksgiving is getting a bit late to contemplate successful transplanting in your area. Not saying it can't be done as long as ground not frozen, just that if not enough time after transplanting and before soil freezes you risk proper establishment. Most of the extensions services for zone 5 climates recommend completing the transplant process by the end of September. If done much later, I would certainly recommend a good mulch, both to protect vulnerable not-yet-established root systems and to ward against frost heaving.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 1:28PM
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Nevermore44 - 6a

i tend to do the same thing... forget how tall everything gets and then don't move them in the spring.

So this fall i focused on moving everything that i wanted regardless of time. I just moved a bunch this past weekend actually. I been moving stuff every weekend for the past month.

I figure as long as i was moving a nice clump of dirt with the plant roots, it would be okay. I was able to amend the new location nicely and much deeper then when i had first planted them... to help them get off to a nice start in the spring.

Now... i wouldn't move anything that i favor or is delicate in the first place.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 2:27PM
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BTW, I was serious about taking photos in my earlier post. Come spring, I've totally forgotten the scale of the autumn garden -- if new plantings outgrew their space, or if a spring riot of color dies down to nothing by July, I'll have no memory of it.

So, while I make sure I've finished moving plants in September, I'll also take a bunch of photographs before cleaning up for winter. Keeps me from planting in that ever-so-inviting spot in early spring that's covered with perennial geranium later.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 2:35PM
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terrene(5b MA)

End of September for zone 5?? That seems overly cautious. I typically transplant well into October and this year am pushing the envelop into November. Just divided and moved a Hosta and 4 peonies this weekend, and planted some Chives that were in a pot, all of which should do well because 1) they are quite hardy plants and 2) they were planted into beds that are close to the house foundation, where it will stay warmer for longer and allow for more root growth.

In October I planted some winter-sown plants, and expect there will be some losses with those because they were still pretty small. Also received a few Bluestone replacements, Heuchera and Geranium 'Rozanne' and got those in the ground in early October.

Also have transplanted at least a dozen shrubs in the past month - Lilacs, Dogwoods, and Winterberry Holly - and with woody plants you are supposed to allow them to go dormant first, and that doesn't happen until mid-October or later.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 9:14PM
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Great tips from all of you guys!!! I will transplant them in spring then. :)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 8:31AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I'm with Terrene re: end of September being too cautious.

I, too, have planted/transplanted into November. It can be done successfully. Note I am in zone 6, though. The first or second week of November is fine in my experience as long as there is a good layer of mulch put down, but after that even I think it's getting too late. Then again, you don't know unless you try, that's how you learn the boundries of what works in *your* microclimate(s), and if it's something that you won't be heartbroken over losing, why not try?

You could also transplant into pots and store in garage/shed over winter if you must get stuff out of the ground now for whatever reason.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 8:31AM
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won't they dry out in the garage?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 11:17AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

As long as the potted plants are thoroughly moist (but not waterlogged) when going into storage, they should not dry out (unless stored in clay - which I don't advise doing because the clay will probably crack due to the moisture/freeze-thaw). They will freeze, however - but that's okay, remember they freeze in the ground too (the freeze line is ~6" or so where I am). The trick is to make sure they're dormant before storage, and keep them dormant until spring.

If you're interested on overwintering in the garage/shed, do a board search - I've posted many times about it in the past, you should be able to find old posts.

Another trick folks use is to pot up and then bury the pots over the winter - old posts should be avail. regarding that, too (I'm lazy - I'd rather just haul into the garage over winter then do all that extra digging, but hey that's just me...)


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 12:55PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Basically there are a couple of hardy perennials that I've learned can't be moved late in the year. They are tap rooted plants that can easily be heaved out of the soil if they don't get a chance to root in well like Siberian iris and astilbe. Aside from that, I'd be willing to move anything that is considered hardy to say zone 4 now.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 3:59PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I agree with Mad-gallica that the hardier the plant, the later you can transplant. I have literally dug up a daylily in late fall, forgot about it and left it sitting next to the compost pile ALL WINTER, and the thing was still alive the next Spring. I have also moved these in the middle of bloom. If you are dealing with tender or fussy plants, that is another story - then it is worth the effort to discern what time of year is ideal for transplanting, which is usually when they are dormant or as close to dormant as possible, in the early Spring or fall.

It is getting pretty late, but I just transplanted 2 more shrubs on Wednesday! They are Corylus americana, American Hazelnut, which are very hardy to zone 3. I watered well and top-dressed with some compost, and I'm planning to mulch with leaves. I am curious to see how they do next year being transplanted in mid-November.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 11:06AM
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Neil - I can second the dormant perennials in the garage from my own experience the past couple of years. Any that didn't get planted before the ground froze just got set inside some plastic storage bins inside the garage for the winter where they froze just as they would in the ground. They came out of dormancy in spring just like their counterparts planted in the flowerbeds, set leaves & bloomed as if they'd been planted in the ground the whole time. I lined the storage bins with straw & newspapers but I don't think it made any difference in the end result.

This year I did set a couple dozen pots in the ground for the winter. I'll be interested to see if there's any difference in them breaking dormancy from the ones that'll get stored in the garage.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 1:20PM
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