When Is the Best Time to Transplant Perennials?

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If you grow perennials in your flower garden, there will come a time when you must divide and transplant. There are several reasons why this may become necessary. Perhaps the location the perennial was placed in is no longer ideal. It has become too sunny or too shady due to nearby flowering shrubs or trees growing larger or being removed.

Maybe the perennial has thrived and now has outgrown its space. Some perennials die off naturally as they age from the center out, giving a doughnut appearance to the plant. Whatever the reason, it is a normal part of growing perennials. 

When Is the Best Time to Transplant?

Deciding when to transplant means you have the option to plan it out or predetermine the best timing. If you are moving to a new home, you may be able to take some of your perennials to start a new flower bed. In this case, you won’t have the option of waiting for the optimum time. 

If you can decide, the best way of determining when to transplant is based on the flowering pattern of each plant. If your perennial blooms in the spring or early summer, it should be transplanted in the fall. If your perennial blooms in the late summer or early fall, transplant it in the spring. 

Remember that when transplanting in the fall, the perennial needs to be in its new location about six weeks before the first hard freeze.

How to Dig Up Your Perennials 

Start by digging out the entire plant or healthy flowering shrubs and the soil it is growing in. Use a garden fork and a narrow shovel to gently remove the soil while protecting the roots. Use a sharp knife to cut away any dead plant material

transplanting sedum plant early spring


You may decide to cut the remaining healthy crown into several smaller sections. Use your knife to do this. This is a great way to increase the number of plants in your garden or increase the size of the garden. If you can’t use the plants in your garden, gift them to a gardening friend.

Ideally, the newly divided plants can be transplanted immediately, but if that is not possible, they need to be protected. If you will have them in the ground the same day, covering them to protect them from the wind and sun will be sufficient. 

If you can’t plant them for a day or two, place them in a shady spot and spray the root ball with water. Cover them with wet newspaper so you don’t let the roots dry out. They should be okay for a couple of days, but try to plant them as soon as possible.

Add New Perennials to Your Garden Today planting astilbe tubers

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Planting Your Perennials in the New Site

Prepare the new site for your plants and the old site if you will be replanting a section there.  You can use a plant auger to dig the soil at least eight inches deep. Add well-rotted manure and compost to the soil. Remove any stones or sticks and other debris from the site.  

Dig a hole about 1.5 times larger than the root ball of the plant. If the roots are loose, form a mound in the planting hole and spread the roots over the mound. Place the plant in the hole so that the crown is at the soil line and then backfill with the amended soil. 

Firm the soil around the perennial and then water around the plant. Do not add fertilizer at this time as the plant needs to put all its energy into developing new roots. If you are planting in the fall, keep the soil moist until there has been a hard freeze. Wait until the ground has frozen to add mulch. 

hostas pushing through soil

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That soft newly dug soil will be a tempting spot for four-legged garden visitors to burrow in and establish their winter home. You won’t be able to evict them if, unknown to you, they are working under the mulch. If you are planting in the spring, keep the soil moist until you see new growth and then water with the rest of the garden.

Shop for Flowering Shrubs Today

Whether you planned to transplant your perennial, or the decision was forced upon you by circumstance, it really isn’t hard to do. Most plants are quite forgiving and will do well in their new location. If you have the choice, use the plant’s flowering pattern to time your decision to transplant.