There is a perception that fall represents the end of the growing season. It is the time to prepare your lawn, garden and house for winter, but it’s also an ideal time to transplant and plant shrubs, trees and perennials.
One of the important reasons is that fall’s cool air and warm soil yield excellent root growth. Before the winter sets in and the earth hardens, both small and larger plants get a strong start.
As many trees and plants enter a period of dormancy, all their energy is transferred from producing foliage to roots and storing energy for the cold months ahead. Come spring, a strong root system is established so that the plants are fortified to handle the demands of the warm weather months.
The earlier you start preparing your grounds for winter, the more time to reconfigure your garden. Once the cleanup grunt work (eliminating dead foliage and cutting back perennials) is finished, you can concentrate on improving and expanding your garden by both transplanting established plants and new plantings.
By the middle of September, I try to be well into my fall cleanup. The head start gives me plenty of time to transplant hearty shrubs that have grown vigorously throughout the summer. For the past three years, I’ve transplanted Hosta plants because they’ve crowded other shrubs. Most Hostas grow aggressively in rich soil bathed in lots of sunlight.
As a guide, fall planting should start as soon as leaves drop. This gives you sufficient time for new water absorbing roots to develop before the soil freezes. And if you stick to plants with a proven transplant fall success rate, your efforts won’t be in vain.
Shrubs that grow vigorously, such as Hostas, Azaleas, Lilacs and Rhododendrons, can be transplanted in the fall. While the climate is excellent, great care should be taken in transplanting shrubs, especially well-established ones. With well-entrenched root systems, be prepared to dig deep and wide so that the plant can be moved in tact. If you don’t have the time and energy to move the entire plant, consider transplanting part of it. Even then, sufficient time is needed for enough of the root system to be taken so that the plant has an excellent chance of thriving in a new environment.
The tricky transplant question is where to move a plant so that your landscape is enhanced. Knowing the growth rates of the other plants and shrubs in your garden, they ought to be strategically placed so that they don’t overshadow other plants, and at the same time add balance and symmetry to your garden.
If you’re new to transplanting or unsure of yourself, master the process with small or moderate sized shrubs with shallow root systems. Excellent candidates are azaleas and hydrangeas.
Lastly, when planting a new shrub or tree, make sure the hole is two to three times wider than its root ball. If it’s a transplant, try to establish the same type of growing environment. Don’t plant it deeper than it was in its prior location.
With transplants, many experts advise placing plant so that about one-third of its root ball is higher than its surrounding soil. Then taper soils so that it covers all the roots.
Whether you transplant large or small shrubs or plant new shrubs and trees, it’s critical that the ground is well fertilized and moist. And the ground should be covered with a thick layer of mulch, which keeps the plants moist, protects them from weeds, and enriches soil. And last but by no means least, water new plantings well.
Finally, don’t get upset if transplants initially wilt. If the plant was carefully planted and mulched, it will snap back and recover quickly.