I’ve been like a little madman in my garden this week as I move my perennial flowers. I’ve been trying to beat my September 30 deadline for getting all the perennials moved into their new home. I’ve had the sprinkler running most evenings trying to get some water into the ground to keep the plants alive and the rain we had this past week was encouraging.
The Moving Date Is September 30 For Best Survival Rates
You see, in the average year, I have to have my perennials planted by September 30 if I want them to establish themselves before winter hits. This planting date almost ensures they survive the winter and pop up next spring to begin life anew.
I find if I wait a few weeks to move my perennials and plant new ones, the survival rates start to go down. While this is dependent on the length of the fall ahead of us, the longer the fall the later I can plant, as a general rule, the end of September is the critical date for perennials. Because I’m not a seer, I can predict how long our fall will last; so for me, September 30 is the to-do date.
Time To Divide The Mature Plants Too
Now, one of the things I’ve also been doing this week is digging, moving and dividing mature perennial plants. The plants have not been hit by frost yet so they look pretty surprised when my shovel digs in and starts popping them out of the ground. As long as I keep them well-watered (hence the sprinkler) they’re going to be fine next year.
Yes, they might look a bit bedraggled now with the move but as a gardener, I’m well into my next-year mode. I moved several 4-year-old clumps of hosta the other day that never even wilted on me; they didn’t look thrilled with the move to be sure, but with enough moisture and a big enough root ball, they never even dropped a leaf.
Dicentra spectabilis or bleeding heart
Get As Many Of The Roots As Possible
And that is one of the keys to moving plants right now. Take as many of the old roots as you can easily lift; with perennials – more is better. When you dig the new hole, it is possible to transfer some of that soil back to the original planting hole if you are a bit short on topsoil but don’t hesitate to take as many roots as you can when you’re moving plants.
Thoroughly water those transplants twenty-four hours before digging – here are those sprinklers again – so the plants are full of water and not wilting in the heat. I try to do most of my digging in the morning before it gets hot or in the evening after it cools down again. There’s no sense at all in stressing either the plant or the gardener by working in the full heat of the midday sun.
What Goes Into The Planting Hole?
When I put a plant into the new hole, there are a few things I do to help the plant along. The first is to ensure the new hole fits the plant being moved.
The old rule of a five dollar hole for a two dollar plant works here.
- Dig a large hole so the earth is well aerated and turned over.
- No, you don’t add anything to the planting hole.
I work a shovel of compost into the soil around each plant after I put them into the ground, but I don’t add peat moss or other fertilizers at this time of year.
I don’t want those plants starting to grow top growth; I want them establishing roots.
Yes, you can use bone meal but no, you can’t use regular plant food of either the granular or liquid form.
I “Muddify” The Entire Area
The second thing, once the plant is firmly fixed into its hole and I’ve stomped the soil down around the root is to put the hose onto the plant and water it really, really well. I like the term “muddify” to describe this. There’s no such word of course but I hope you get the picture. After this initial soaking, keep the soil evenly damp for at least the next month while the plant is recovering from the move.
How To Decide What To Move In The Fall Or Spring
How do I decide which plants to move now? You can move any herbaceous perennial plant at this time of year.
However, the rule of thumb
- “if it blooms in the spring or summer, move in the fall –
- if it blooms in the fall, move in the spring” is a good guideline.
I’m not moving any plants now that are in full bloom; they get to wait until spring. You can read other notes about seasonal garden tips here
Move Your Plants!
So, that’s it. Feel free to move those perennials now. Get out the shovels, those plants are good to go and fix your planting mistakes from this spring.
All I can say is that the taller hosta that was supposed to be short and the short hosta that was at the very back of the garden because of my advanced sense of great garden planning have both been moved. Next year I may even see that hosta for the first time. Will wonders never cease in my garden?