I like to move some of my plants every year in order to dig more compost into the soil. Others I move because they have been shaded out, and some others need to go where they can not spread so far. Fall is a good time to do this. COREOPSIS have now gone to seed so I cut the heads into a wide bowl with scissors and toss them into their new home. Of course there will be some in both places! The SHIRLEY POPPIES can be treated the same way but they may have over a thousand seeds in their heads so I generally roll the pods in my hands to loosen the seeds and scatter them out. (Books tell me that POPPIES have as many as 30,000 seeds per case.) I do not try to cover either of these as they need light to germinate. Some years I leave the seed heads in their bowls until after I have raked leaves and then throw them in place. I will walk on them so they make good contact with the soil but do not cover. POPPY SEEDS need light to germinate. LARKSPUR will seed themselves of course, and usually come up in the fall and wait until spring just 1 to 2 inches high.  In nature plants drop their seeds when ripe, and then will freeze and thaw a few times during winter.  When we bring in different plants such as tropicals we sometimes need special methods to get a new generation.

          Perennials whose roots we need to dig to move, may require a little different care. PEONIES need to spend the summer making food and enlarging their roots so fall (September) is the best time to transplant.  IRIS need at least six weeks for their roots to get settled in before winter stops progress so August is a good time to divide and transplant.  One plant I think you can move any time without killing it is the DAYLILY, but you will affect the bloom. You will notice the roots have little nodules of “energy” attached to them.  Be careful when you transplant as freezing and thawing will lift a loose plant out of the soil. 

          Sometimes it is easier to layer a plant than to move it, especially if it is large or has been in place several years. Many of them have low branches that you can anchor to the ground with a brick or rock.  It speeds things up if you scrape the portion of the stem on the ground to get roots started. Some shrubs are fast, such as the VIBURNUM and CORAL BERRY while others may take an entire season.  The mother plant is feeding your new one while it roots. WILLOWS who secrete a hormone used in commercial rooting products are as fast as any shrub.  You can cut the end off a branch, put it in damp soil, and soon have a new plant. 

          This is the time of the year we can move our houseplants if needed.  If they have been in the same soil for several years you may want to cut them back to suit your space, lift them up and shake as much soil as possible off the roots, and add new potting soil to fill the same or a bigger pot.  Some plants such as ORCHIDS should be completely stripped of the old material.  Many ORCHID potting soils are not soil but organic materials such as ground bark, etc., that works much better in pots. Set your new plant in a partially shaded area to recover and prepare for coming in when it starts to get cool in the evenings. This also gives you a chance to check for bugs or diseases.

          I see BANANA PLANTS more often here in Lincoln but never see any ripe bananas.  Mine gets huge and beautiful and most years has one or two babies from the roots that I separate off and pot up and bring in. I do this as the mother plant is too big. This means she will freeze before having a long enough season to produce.  Some of my catalogs now have mini banana plants that will have fruit but I haven’t tried one yet.  Those big, gorgeous striped leaves are enough.  They will tear in the wind, so hunt for a good area when you plant them outside. The baby needs a fairly good sized pot as it will grow some in a warm, well lighted place during winter.  They need a fair amount of water all year to support those leaves which my be 5-6 feet long and 2-3 feet wide.

          My FIG TREE should be large enough next spring to have a few figs.  They seem to come directly out of the branches.  It is a “Brown Turkey” as I had one other before but it got too big and so I started this one. Directions say you can let them fruit, drop leaves and then put in a shelter where it will not go below zero degrees F., but I have always brought mine in.  I have never had a crop to brag about but at least I know what a fresh fig tastes like. The little COFFEE TREE bloomed this summer and now has a few “beans” along its branches, but it will have to come in as it is 2 ½ feet tall.

          There are those plants that resent moving and sulk for a long time. CLIVIA is one of those and directions say to let them break the pot before repotting. Mine has been in the same pot now for 5-6 years and blooms every spring about February or March in the garage where it has had only 1-2 waterings all winter. My AMAZON LILY, about 18 inches high, is now in bloom but it came with the same orders-“DO NOT REPOT”. Perennials that do not like to be moved include the BUTTERFLY MILKWEED (Asclepsis tuberosa) with its very long tap root.  ANNUAL POPPIES very seldom survive transplanting.

          To see if your houseplants need new pots, turn them upside and drop the plant out of the pot. If the roots are badly tangled, trim both the roots and the plant, or “butterfly” the roots as George described in his article last week, and put in a larger pot. If they are very root bound, you may have to use a knife and slice around the inside edge. You also may want to wash some of the soil away in order to unwind the roots. If you trim the roots enough, your plant can go back in the same pot.  Otherwise do not put them into a pot more than 2 inches bigger as too much soil can become water logged, which encourages fungous.

Good things about moving plants in the fall:

1.     Roots get a good start in cool weather;

2.     A wet spring might prevent moving;

3.     A hot dry spring is hard on new plants without a good root system.


 Bad things that can happen are:

1.     A dry fall and roots don’t get enough water;

2.     Freezing and thawing will cause loose roots to come out of the ground (heaving);

3.     If planted early or we have a long fall, the plant may start new growth that will not get mature and will get frozen.

Copyright 2007