The Q&A Archives: Transplanting Mature Perennials in November

Question: We are moving in November and would love to bring our best perennials with us to our new home. Should they winter over in containers in the basement or can I park them in the existing vegetable garden until spring or should I leave them behind and start over? I'd like to take Siberian irises, potentilla bushes, and artemesia, columbine, thyme and a daylilly. I live 50 miles north of Pittsburgh and we haven't had our killing frost as of yet, only mild ones.

Answer: It's so hard to leave a garden behind!

First off, I should caution you that if you are moving because you have sold property then you should check with your real estate agent before you remove any plants. It's usually a big no-no.

Keeping plants in a basement or even in a cool garage often ends up causing problems with rot, fungus and so on although it can be done. Dormant plants can be moved as long as the ground isn't frozen, so my suggestion is to move them if you can.

Water them very well the day before you work. Plan to set each rootball into a plastic bag for the trip, keep the bagged plants out of direct sun, and replant as soon as possible. Dig them with very generous rootballs and replant them into a prepared bed, water them in and mulch well for the winter. The veggie bed sounds like a good option as long as it is well-drained and not soggy all winter. Check them periodically for heaving, although I doubt it will be a problem with larger plants.

Some of your plants I would expect to move well: the SIberian iris, the potentilla and the daylily. Columbine is usually fairly short lived, so I doubt it will be worth the effort to move it. Thyme is usually not as deeply rooted as one would like for fall planting but you might try a few pieces and see. It is an inexpensive plant as a rule and grows quickly, so it may be another candidate for leaving behind. The artemisia may or may not move -- it depends if you have a shrubby form like "Powis Castle" or a running form like "Silver King". In my experience the shrubby forms do not transplant well at any season while the running types are virtually unkillable provided they have adequate drainage and a somewhat light soil rather than heavy clay. Be sure to trim the potentilla back hard to compensate for the lost roots and to help it stay compact next summer.

Good luck with your move!

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