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Re-Planting Perennials

Tips for planting or transplanting perennials in the fall.

Hardy perennials at a nursery.

Fall is such a good time to plant perennials and to take advantage of sales when plants are quite inexpensive. However, no plant is a bargain if we let it die because of neglect.

I sometimes stick a plant in the ground and then forget about watering it, and so it understandably fails to become established. When you bring plants home from the garden center, put them in a shady and protected spot until you move them into the garden. Keep the pots well watered as small pots particularly dry out quickly.

Bare root plants that arrive in the mail in packing material should be kept moist; if the material dries out, it can be deadly for the plant. Before planting soak bare roots for an hour in warm water.

Cool, cloudy and rainy days are best for both planting and transplanting.

  • Always dig a hole big enough to accommodate a plant’s roots. I know from experience, sadly, that to cheat on this is not a good idea.
  • If the roots have wound around the root ball, use a sharp knife to cut them so that they can grow outwards in the soil.
  • If you are transplanting, cut back a plant’s top growth by at least one third.
  • Set the plant’s crown (where the top joins the roots) at soil surface and hold the plant erect as you refill the soil in the hole.
  • Then tamp the soil down very firmly all around the plant.
  • Water thoroughly and regularly while the roots get established. The plant needs time for this to occur before a hard freeze.
Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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