Transplanting in the Pacific Northwest

By Jamie Sloan

Here in the Willamette Valley, we are quite fortunate to be able to enjoy the bounty of many prolific landscapes and gardens. It’s a relatively easy conquest to find swaths of green, undoubtedly dappled with vibrant hues of thriving annuals and perennials. However, like most deliberate creations, much trial and error is experienced before contentment sets in.

Iris in need of dividing

There will invariably be a change of vision for any home or professional gardener after the initial install, or before a new install of plant material. Transplanting can be a practical and effective means of achieving a desired aesthetic for one’s garden, without having to grow or purchase new plant material. One efficient and sustainable approach to gardening is to reuse and recycle when you can, and where you can. A clump of daisies may look unkempt and overbearing at a garden entrance; however, when transplanted within the further confines of a garden plot, you may find that it adds a new dimension and appeal to an area that was formally a lackluster void.

Transplanting is a relatively easy process, yet there are certain considerations to make before the spading begins. Weather, water, location and plant material are all factors that can make or break the success of a transplant. Like a surgeon who prepares a patient for transplant operation; so, too, must a gardener. As gardeners, we are operating in a domain of living, breathing organisms that need to be cared for with adequate attention and proper procedure. Below are some helpful tips to ensure a successful garden transplant.

tree transplant

First, consider the season and weather. It is best to avoid transplanting during the hot, dry summer season all together. In some cases it cannot be avoided, so there are a few extra precautionary steps to take if you must transplant in summertime. The best time for transplanting is when plants begin their dormancy. Autumn is a preferred time of the year as the skies start to become overcast, and the weather begins to cool down. If it is a hot, sunny day however, it is best to wait until the early evening hours once the sun has begun setting.

Next, identify the desired area for the transplant. Watering the plants that are to be moved, the day before, is ideal for proper hydration. Again, consider the lighting, water availability, and wind force of the new location. Should all of these factors be conducive for the plants’ needs, then dig the required specs for the hole of the transplant. Keep in mind that the hole should be twice the size of the root ball. There is less concern about the depth of the planting hole compared to the width of it. Here in the Willamette Valley, it is ideal to encourage roots to grow deep within the soil. Therefore, you will often find the tops of the plants protruding from the surface level, by up to an inch. This high planting is done on purpose, and forces plant roots to grow deeper in search of water (a final layer of bark mulch around the plant will cover the exposed top, and complete the overall garden appearance).

Once the hole is dug, add the recommended amount of organic fertilizer and water to the new planting hole. The plant that is to be moved should already be pruned back and all spent, dead foliage should be removed from the plant. Time can be critical for transplanting, especially if it is a hot and sunny day. Never leave uprooted plants, or even potted plants, exposed to scorching sun, heat or wind when transplanting. Remove them just prior to planting. After uprooting the transplant, carefully transport it to the newly prepared hole and add more water. Slowly add the backfill, preferably a mixture of fresh soil with existing natural soil, to the hole. Firmly, but gently pack soil to the new plant site. Once again, water the entire plant in its new location. Another precaution to ensure the best results, and help quell any unavoidable shock that the plant may endure, is to shield the new transplant from direct sun light. Garden fabric or row cover cloth is ideal for blocking harsh sun rays.

The transplant(s) should be observed daily for the first two weeks, and should be watered every day. A wilting plant is a sign of either a need for water, too much sun, or both. Keep in mind that the larger the plant, the more water is needed for sufficient top growth requirements. Also, when watering, always water the plant base, not the flowers and leaves. As mentioned, the plant will most likely suffer from the stress of the move and should be monitored while it is establishing in its new location. It is normal for some leaves to yellow and shed soon after a transplant. Some plants are much more sensitive to the transplanting process than others. For example, Daphne’s typically do not survive a transplant. New leaves and buds during the next growth cycle are a sure sign of a successfully established transplant.

By following the given steps, and responding to the plant’s needs, will help ensure a successful transition and a happy garden. Best of luck, and may you and your garden thrive together, beautifully.

Transplanting in the Pacific Northwest

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