JoAnne Skelly: Now is the time to transplant non-blooming plants

I’m in the mood to rearrange my yard, particularly the perennials. I have iris I don’t like in a visual place, and iris I do like hidden from view. My catmint, Mexican primrose and caryopteris have re-seeded all over. I want to take advantage of all these new plants and put them in spots where they will add color and interest.

Fortunately, this is the perfect time of year to indulge my urge to redesign. The plants are slowing down, the soil is warm and the air temperatures are cooler. The only other factor that could make it any better would be if we had some rain before and after transplanting. A rule of thumb is, don’t transplant anything that is blooming. If you have a fall bloomer, transplant it in the spring. Another rule is to water what you want to transplant thoroughly at least 24 hours before you dig it up. Plants lose roots when you move them, so you want them well hydrated prior to the shock of moving.

Another helpful tip: Before you dig up perennials, first remove about half of the top growth. This reduces the water draw on the roots, allowing them to grow and establish rather than putting effort into supplying water to the upper portion of the plant. Most perennials can be moved by simply digging a large shovelful of soil and roots with the plant and placing it in the new location.

This also is a good time to divide overgrown perennials, too. If the plant has outgrown its area, remove half the plant, leaving the other part to refill in the area. Plant at the same depth they were originally. Utah State Extension horticulturist Dennis Hinkamp puts it this way, “Some overgrown monsters may need to move to the compost pile, while others just may need a change of address in your yard.”

Have the planting hole dug and moistened in the new location. Then, water both the relocated plant and parent of any divided plant well. Check the soil around them every day or so for a couple of weeks. Water when the top of the soil is dry two to three inches down. Place three- to four-inches of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and keep the soil warm. If we have more than three dry weeks during the winter, be sure to water the new transplants.

Enjoy nature’s bounty, transplant!

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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