Ideal Transplanting Time
Fall is the ideal transplanting season!
We’re heading into the ideal time for transplanting. If you want to relocate existing plants or extend your plantings with newly purchased plants, fall is the best time of the year to do so. You can also successfully transplant in the early spring, but fall is the ideal time.
Wait until it’s cool enough for your plants to enter dormancy before transplanting them. Usually temperatures just above freezing, in conjunction with shorter days will induce dormancy. Think of this as performing surgery – roots will be cut. You wouldn’t want to have surgery when you’re wide awake either!
Lifting the Plant
Carefully dig around all sides of the plant, and lift it with as large a rootball as you can handle. For larger plants, the easiest way to move it into the new location is to slide it onto a tarp or piece of heavy plastic. Set it upright, and get ready for some muscle work. Drag it to the new location, and set it as near the new hole as possible.
Much better for your back than lifting and carrying! I’ve transplanted pretty large rhodos this way.
Prepping the new location
Now, dig a hole larger than the rootball – so you’ll have at least 3 inches clearance all around. Go for a hole that's twice as wide as the rootball. Fill the hole half full with water, and then allow all the water to absorb into the surrounding soil. This is especially necessary if you’ve had extended dry weather.
Put some compost in the bottom of the hole, and carefully slide the plant off the tarp and into the pit, with the top of the rootball at grade level. Fill around the rootball with good garden soil or compost, and lightly tamp it in place.
Once your shrub or plant is in its new location, you may want to trim it back. This will depend on what type of plant you’re transplanting.
If it's a shrub, trim the branches by at least 1/4 of shoot length to compensate for root loss and to promote root growth. If it's a herbaceous perennial such as daylilies, trim the top growth down to about 3 inches. If you're in a cold region, now is a good time to mulch around your new plant, so the roots are protected and there is less evaporation of soil moisture.
Don’t fertilize if you’re transplanting in the fall, but do water well. If you’re lucky enough to live in a mild winter climate, with lots of rain, you’ll find that by spring your relocated plant has had a head start for its new season.