We gardeners never seem to be satisfied with our landscapes — always moving this plant to a better position or digging up a poor performer and replacing it with something more exciting.
Perhaps the best reason could be we either didn’t spend enough time selecting the right plant for the right place, or perhaps rather than accepting that blame, the plant just didn’t perform as anticipated.
Or more likely, it could be a bit of both possibilities!
If you’re seriously checking your landscape as this season winds down, keep in mind this is the perfect time to critically eye what plants or plant combinations have met or exceeded your expectations, and more important, which ones haven’t.
If you get busy and don’t procrastinate, this is a great time to transplant. Dig up and move those shrubs or perennials that are simply in the wrong place, or pull them out and replace with something more suitable for the area.
Often, we have trouble judging just how much space a plant will need at maturity. Seems wrong, just plunking in a cute little shrub without close-by neighbors. Its scale is wrong for the space now, but eventually it will fit just right. One solution is to add some annuals next spring into those open spaces, allowing time for the shrub to grow into its surroundings.
Right now and again in spring are the best times for transplanting. Fall has the advantage of warm soil temperatures that encourages good root growth while above-ground the plant is going dormant and needing very little besides some water.
The biggest challenge in fall planting is allowing time for the plant to get acclimated before really cold weather sets in. A nice layer of mulch helps moderate cold temperatures; just be sure to pull it away from the plant’s base so mice don’t make a meal of the protected trunk or stems. A nice layer of snow is also great insulation for plants, although you might not appreciate it as much as the plant does.
Spring planting offers a better selection if you’re in the market for a new plant. But the soil hasn’t warmed up and the plant will be striving to grow a root system as well as trying to put out new top growth at the same time.
So there’s no perfect time for transplanting, but we have two windows of opportunity.
To be practical and honest, it’s often a matter of when we make the time to figure out what we want to transplant and where, and then make it a priority to get out there and do the job.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears regularly in the At Home section. Mary Fran McClure is one of five columnists featured.