How does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

February is a great time for transplants. Most plants are still dormant and will not suffer from being moved to a new location. Well, that’s if you move the plant properly. But before you go ahead and start to dig, let me advise you not to move any well-established trees or shrubs. Anything that has been growing in the ground for more than two years will be difficult to move.

Transplantation causes root damage. While roots have the job of supporting the plant, their main task is to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. This is accomplished by microscopic root hair cells that are impossible to see with the naked eye. These specialized cells grow only at the tips of the roots and are most likely damaged or even cut off during transplantation. For this reason, trying to move an established plant may result in the death of that plant.

Winter is a good time for transplanting because most plants are not in a growing phase, or may even be deciduous and not producing any food. When transplanting, you will want to gently dig up as much of the root as possible, maintaining a root ball in the process. That is, keep as much of the soil that is surrounding the roots as you can. The more roots you preserve, the more likely your transplant will be successful. For perennials (daylilies, scabiosa, lily of the Nile, etc.) this is fairly easy as these roots are not too extensive. You should dig out the hole you intend to use prior to digging out the plant to be moved. In this way, the root ball can be replanted immediately and water loss will be greatly reduced.

After transplantation, make sure you keep the roots of the newly-moved plant moist for quite some time. In the cool weather ahead, you may have to water two to three times a week. Perhaps Mother Nature will kick in with some rain. If you have transplanted a tree or shrub, it is advisable that you prune back some of the branches so that there is less living tissue dependent on the smaller root system you have created by digging up the plant. Do not fertilize new transplants for several months. Time is necessary for new root hair cells to grow, so adding fertilizer is really useless until the transplant is established. Well, I’ve got my shovel ready and I am going to take some of my own advice!

Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their new website: for all up to date information and events for our community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459. Your phone call will be forwarded to a Master Gardener Volunteer who will assist you in the solution of your problem. Your SaddleBrooke/SaddleBrooke Ranch Master Gardener Volunteers are here all year round to assist with any plant or landscaping problem.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.