Perennials forum: Advice on Transplanting

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Apr 4, 2017 12:09 AM CST
I am not an experienced gardener at all and came here seeking advice from those who know more than I do.

My mother has a garden area that is very thick and full of tulips and irises. She has had some issues with mice inhabiting this particular area. Being deathly afraid of them, she is determined to take out the thick vegetation of this particular space and put gravel there instead (she thinks this will make the area less appealing to rodents). She has asked me to help her empty the flower bed within the coming week. Her mind is made up, so whether this is advisable is not the question.

My question is whether any of these tulips or irises could potentially be saved. My own yard is sadly without many flowers and I would love to add some more color to it. However, I understand that the timing of a transplant attempt may not be conducive to success. It is my understanding that spring (when the plants are actively blooming) is the worst time to make such an effort.

I live about twenty minutes away from my mother, so it would be quite a trip to transplant. I would obviously be utilizing pots of dirt and such for the flowers to make the trip to my house. However is even that futile? If the plants wither this year during the transfer, would the bulbs/tubes still produce flowers during future years? What steps would increase my chances at having any success in this attempt?
Name: Rose
Oquawka, IL (Zone 5a)
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Apr 4, 2017 4:07 PM CST
You don't mention what zone you're gardening in, but I wouldn't move anything if there's still a chance of frost or hard freeze. If you're in a zone that is safe from the weather, then you should be fine. I hope that somebody with more experience with bulbs will have answers for you about blooms this year. I've moved a few iris and daylillies in the early spring and got some blooms, but the second year was much prettier. As for the use of pots and dirt to move them, that sounds like a lot of extra work to me. If you have a spot ready for the bulbs, just wrap them in damp newspapers for the ride home. 20 minutes isn't that long! Good luck!
Name: Jen Dionne
Southern NH (Zone 5b)
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Apr 5, 2017 5:45 PM CST
If it were me, I wouldn't bother with attempting to move the tulips. They usually diminish within the first few years of planting and rarely flower thereafter, so I'd skip them.

As for the Irises, I think those would transplant without any problem. They are usually very hardy, and even if there was a frost/freeze after the transplant, I'm not sure what difference that would make. It's always advisable to water new transplants well after transplanting . Plant them at the same level they had been planted at before (or a little more shallow with Iris - 'bearded iris' want their rhizomes to be exposed on the surface (not buried) in order to flower). Build a 2-3" tall "moat" a few inches from the base of the transplants to contain water, and fill it with water when watering. I'd fill it at least two or 3 times initially, then fill in any holes that develop due to air being displaced by the water and soil settling, with soil.

If the irises are blooming at transplant time, just cut the flowers off, and cut the foliage back by 1/3 to compensate for the inevitable loss of roots that happen when transplanting. If it's early, and the foliage is just sprouting, this is not necessary, but I would recommend it with most perennial transplants that are done mid season when the plant is fully leafed out.
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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Apr 10, 2017 6:49 AM CST
I'm with the person that points out the need to know just where you are.
But... From the way the question was asked.... Im thinking that the tulips have already bloomed out and dropped their petals.

Where I live, digging up bulbs and filling ice chests and galvanized tubs is a common approach to this kind of situation.

Is it worth it?


Have you priced flowers lately?

Grab everything!
Trying to fill up individual containers would be daunting, but filling up a recycle bin or milk crate ( line with plastic), or any other tubs that you have.... Means a lot of free plants quickly.... The hardest part.... Setting them out when you get home.... Hopefully, you have a nice big patch of lawn ready to die!

I never bother with all the trimming and stuff advocated by some people....

My transplants generally do fine.

If the foliage withers a bit.... No big worries.... Hopefully you are getting so many bulbs that losing a few is going to be far less of an issue than just getting them all in the ground!
[Last edited by stone - Apr 10, 2017 6:55 AM (+)]
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