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How To Transplant Perennials

Perennials have the advantage of coming back year after year. But over time, you may need to find them a new home. They may outgrow their initial spot. Or you may have other plans for the yard and need to rearrange the layout. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to transplant this type of plant!

Not too hard – but that doesn’t mean you can pull up a plant by the roots and toss it into a new home without some planning and preparation! 

To help simplify that, we’ve put together a short guide on the best time of year to move perennials and on how to do it.

Best Time of Year To Transplant Perennials

If you want your transplanted plant to thrive, it’s best to move it during a mild part of the year. Spring or fall are the best times.

As you can imagine, a transplant puts a lot of stress on the plant. So you don’t want to uproot it when it’s fighting to survive the heat of summer or the chill of winter.

But think about the plant’s life cycle, too. When does it bloom? That’s another energy-intensive period, so don’t move it then. If you can trim it back, go ahead and do it before the move. These tips will help the plant preserve vital energy.

By choosing the right time, you allow your perennial to focus its energy on getting comfortable in its new home. Sure, it’s still a draining experience. But cool weather will make the process more likely to succeed.

You can transplant in the summer if you need to, of course. Cool, cloudy days are best. The leaves and roots won’t dry out quickly.

Supplies You’ll Need

As with any project, you should gather your tools and supplies first. For transplanting perennials, you’ve got a short list!

Steps to Transplanting Perennials

Now let’s get down to business and move your plant!

Prepare the New Hole

The perennial should spend as little time as possible cut off from its connection to the soil. That’s why digging a new hole is the first step in the transplant process.

Of course, you haven’t seen the root system of the plant yet. So you won’t know exactly how big the new hole should be. About 10 inches deep and ten inches across is a good start, though. If necessary, you can expand it once you see the size of the root ball.

Soak the Ground 

The next step is to soak the ground – both at the current location of the perennial and its new hole. 

That makes it easier to dig up the plant. But it also helps prevent roots from drying out.

Watering the new hole will help the plant take root and draw nutrients as soon as possible.

Fill the new hole with water. Fill it, then let it soak in. And if the ground is dry, it will soak in quickly!. Give it about 15 minutes. If the soil absorbs the water, fill the hole again. Your goal is to make the soil damp but not muddy.

Dig It Out

The next step is to dig the plant out. Again, try to minimize damage to the roots as possible, so make an educated guess about how far they have spread. 

Keep as much soil around the roots as possible, too, to ease the transition.

Need To Divide Your Perennial Plant?

Sometimes plants outgrow their space. Or maybe you want to share it with a friend or family member. When you want to start a new plant, add one step to the transplant process!

The goal is to leave each plant with three or four strong roots once the plant is separated. 

You can separate the plant by cutting the less-developed roots. But you could gently work them apart with your fingers instead. Be gentle and go slowly, breaking as few roots as possible. And be sure to have each new plant in its new home as soon as possible!

Moving In

Carry the plant to its new home. Using a bucket can help keep soil from falling off the roots. It can also reduce on the stem from where you would have held it. If it’s a larger plant, it might be easier with a wheelbarrow!

We recommend that this be one continuous process so that the plant doesn’t have a chance to dry out. You don’t have to rush, but you shouldn’t leave it sitting, either.

Place your perennial in its new hole. Fill it with water again, then start backfilling it with compost or mulch along with the soil.

Don’t pack the soil too tightly; you want it to be able to “breathe.” Loose soil allows roots to spread and take hold.

Water Thoroughly

Have we mentioned that you needed to add a lot of water? It doesn’t stop the day of the transplant! Your perennial needs extra TLC while it adapts to its new spot.

Water it every day (unless there’s been significant rain). Keep the ground damp – that is, the soil should feel wet, but there shouldn’t be standing puddles on the surface. 

Keep the extra watering up for at least several weeks. 

Conclusion 

There are a lot of reasons to transplant perennials. While you’re at it, you might also want to divide them into smaller plants. A mild day – preferably in spring or fall – is best; you don’t want the leaves and roots to dry out. Be sure to keep them well-watered in their new home, too. And with this bit of care, your plant will continue to thrive after its move!