Coles County Yard and Garden

Coles County Yard and Garden

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Dividing and Transplanting

by Kathy Hummel, Coles County Master Gardener

Just thinking about moving a favorite plant from one spot to another might make you nervous, but don't fret. It's really a simple process. Timing is key to transplanting perennials successfully. Here's a general rule of thumb that will help you determine the best time to transplant any perennial: If the plant blooms in the spring, move it in the fall – early September or later. If a plant blooms in the summer or fall, move it in the spring.

When transplanting in the spring, start when the plant's new growth begins to appear so you'll know where and how much to dig. If you are transplanting in the fall, cut the plant back to half its size just prior to moving. This will make the move easier on you and the plant.

The first step in transplanting is to prepare the new home for the plant. Clear the area of any weeds, dig a hole appropriate for the plant and add some compost to the soil.

Now it's time to go back and dig up the plant. I know - this is the part that can be scary. You can do it! Start by digging all around the plant with a sharp spade, then slip the spade beneath the clump and lift the plant and its rootball out of the ground.

Plant the perennial in its new home at the same depth it grew originally. Refill the hole with loose soil and tamp it down a bit to eliminate any air pockets. Then give it a good drink to help it settle in, and keep the soil moist - but not soggy - as the plant reestablishes itself. It may look a bit bedraggled for a while, but it will come back the next season strong and happy.

There are a few perennials that simply do not like to be moved: Peonies, bleeding hearts, foxtail lilies, butterfly weed and goatsbeard. Move these plants only when it is absolutely necessary. If you must move a peony, do so in late fall after a hard freeze while the plant is dormant.

Q: What should I do with bulb foliage after the blooms have faded in the spring?

A: Do not cut back the leaves of perennial bulbs such as daffodils because leaves recharge the bulb's energy via photosynthesis and prepare the bulb for blooming next year. Do remove the spent flowers, for this halts the plant's natural instinct to produce seeds, which drains energy from the bulb.

After a while, the foliage begins to look scraggly, but keep it in place until it turns brown. One solution to camouflaging the fading foliage is to plant perennials in front. Day lilies or ornamental grasses are good perennial camouflage. They will gain height about the time the bulb foliage is beginning to appear unsightly.

This is also an excellent time to feed your bulbs. Sprinkle about a tablespoon or so of a well-balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or triple 13 around the base of the plants.

If you have questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034 or email You can also check the many horticulture webpages at their website by visiting http:/

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