Best Times For Transplanting: When Is A Good Time To Transplant In The Garden

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No matter how careful you are to put the right shrub in the right spot, sometimes the placement doesn’t work. Maybe the “dwarf” tree grows too tall. Maybe the bushes behind block out the sun. Whatever the reason, it is transplant time.

 Transplanting isn’t easy on a tree or shrub, so it’s important to select the optimal time to dig it out. When is a good time to transplant? Opinions differ on the best times for transplanting. Here are some tips on transplanting times for gardeners.

When is a Good Time to Transplant?

Experts agree that fall is one of the best times for transplanting, but spring is also considered good. Each season has advantages that the other lacks. Many claim that fall is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs

Fall transplants can benefit from the months of cooler, moister weather ahead. Thanks to autumn rains, the plant’s roots get a chance to grow before summer’s heat dries up the earth. Strong roots anchor a new transplant into its new location and help stock up on needed nutrients. 

Compare this to spring planted trees that will have few roots out into the yard when the summer heat arrives so soon after planting. You’ll certainly have to irrigate early and often with spring planting. 

On the other hand, those who consider spring the best time to transplant trees and shrubs note that the new transplants don’t have to deal with winter right away. Trees transplanted in fall must face winter winds and cold temperatures before they get settled in their new location.

When to Move Perennials?

The key to moving perennials is not to choose a bad time. You should never move perennials when they are in flower. Wait at least a few weeks after a plant flowers to pick up the shovel. One rule of thumb is to transplant fall-blooming perennials in spring and spring flowering perennials in fall. 

Don’t transplant perennials where the weather is hot, either. Every time you dig up a plant, it loses some roots. In hot weather, this root deficit may make it impossible for a transplant to cool itself. The best times for transplanting perennials are the months when the weather is cool. Spring often works well, and fall is one of the transplanting seasons of choice.

Best Time to Transplant Trees and Shrubs

One factor to consider, when you are thinking about the best time for transplanting big plants, is whether you will need to root prune. Root pruning is one way a gardener can help a shrub or tree make up for lost feeder roots that help supply it with nutrients and water. 

When you root prune, you cut off the roots a short distance from the trunk in order to allow new groups of feeder roots to form. These roots can be incorporated into the root ball when you move the tree and provide the tree with new roots in its new destination. 

One way to root prune is to use a sharp spade to cut through existing roots in a circle, around the plant. Another is to dig a trench around the plant, cutting the roots as you go.

Transplanting times for gardeners need to take root pruning into account. Generally, it is best to root prune in fall. If you root prune in fall, you should transplant in spring, giving the new roots a chance to get started. If you root prune in spring, transplant in fall.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.