Time to Transplant

Did you know fall is a great time to divide, share and transplant most perennials? Timing is the key to successfully transplanting and/or dividing perennials. Here's a general rule of thumb that will help you determine the best time to transplant any perennial:

  • If the plant blooms in the spring, move it in the fall - September is ideal in most areas. Good candidates for fall are siberian iris, day lilies and hosta.
  • If a plant blooms in the summer or fall, move it in the spring. Fall blooming anemone and aster are good examples.

Some perennials may need to be divided every three to four years, others will quite happily grow for up to ten years before they need to be divided, and a few species don't like to be divided at all. How will you know when it's time for dividing perennials? The best thing to do is to observe the plants and let them tell you when. It is time for dividing perennials when you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • The plant is flowering less than usual and the blooms are smaller
  • Growth in the center of the plant is dying, leaving a hole in the center with growth only around the edges
  • The plant isn't growing as vigorously as it has in the past
  • The plant has outgrown its space in the garden and is becoming crowded by its neighbors

Follow these simple steps when dividing your perennials:

  1. Start by digging around the perimeter of the plant with a sharp spade
  2. After digging all around the plant, slide your spade beneath the clump and using the spade as a lever, lift the plant out of the ground
  3. Use a sharp spade or a knife to cut the clump into smaller, more manageable plants
  4. It can be helpful to hose off some of the soil around the roots, to help you get a better view of the roots
  5. Discard any sections of the plant that are dead and trim off any damaged roots
  6. Keep the divisions moist and in the shade until they can be replanted
  7. Replant the divisions at the same depth the plant was originally growing
  8. Water the newly planted divisions well and keep them from drying out while they re-establish themselves

The cooler weather and the increased rains of fall give perennials a great start in a new location. And, if you look around, many local communities and garden clubs host fall perennial exchanges, so after you have completed changes in your garden, consider taking some of your 'leftovers' to community events and trade for something new and exciting in your garden!