With spring right around the corner, now is the time to start prepping for the upcoming garden season. If uprooting plants and replanting them elsewhere in your garden is on your to-do list, there are plenty of ways to do this without damaging the plants and ensuring they will continue to thrive in a new location.
“The master gardener mantra is right plant, right place,” says Kirsten Conrad, who is the agriculture and natural resources extension agent for Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.
There are many reason you may have to make the decision to replant items throughout your garden. Conrad says one reason may be that you didn’t fully think out the right place for your plants.
“It could have outgrown the size of the place it’s in, then you could dig it up and resize it into smaller pieces, and then plant it in a place where it can grow to its full glory,” she says.
“If the conditions under which your plant is growing change, like when we lose a tree that has been shading a garden, and the light and heat conditions change drastically. They will need to be moved to another location with the same conditions,” she says.
“When you change the drainage around your home — or if the neighbors change how storm water comes off their property — maybe your area is now getting flooded out when it didn’t used to. If you can pick up the bed and raise it, to make it higher, or move the plants somewhere dryer, they’ll do much better.”
And while it is easier to uproot plants, Conrad says that transplanting a tree should be avoided.
“Trees can be moved when they’re young,” she says. “There’s a practice called root pruning that can be done with shrubs and trees that can reduce the amount of stress that plant experiences from being moved. Root pruning is to prune the roots while they’re in the ground so that the plant has a smaller root ball.”
She says then you can move it, and it “generates new roots when you replant it.”
The rule is to start to uproot at 1 foot from the stem for every inch of the trunk’s circumference.
If you’re planting annual flowers in your garden, make a careful plan first.
“You would not generally move annual plants unless you’re bringing them inside for the winter. Perennials, on the other hand, can be moved. The best time to move them in is the early spring or in the fall,” Conrad says.
You uproot a perennial by digging vertically into the ground around the stem of the plant, and then uprooting it.
Timing the Move
When it comes to transplanting plants, timing is key.
“If you move plants in September and put them in a new location, those roots will have a chance to get established before wintertime,” says Conrad. “If you transplant too late in the season, those plants will fall victim to frost heave — that’s when the ground is freezing, and will push the root ball out. That can be injurious to small plants with small root balls.”
You can also move and replant them in the springtime, right before they start growing, she says.
“That way, the new growth is just starting to come out of the ground and you can move it to its new location. That plant continues to grow as if it was uninterrupted. Many of the herbaceous perennials do well with that kind of transplanting,” she says.
Conrad says for those practicing “right plant, right place,” they need to understand what the mature size of that plant is, and the conditions under which it will thrive.
“Make sure you put it where it will be permitted to grow to its full size,” she says.
For more garden tips, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s Home newsletter.