Need to move mature hellebores--am I nuts?

mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)June 4, 2004

These hellebores have been in ground for 10 + years--and have produced many babies scattered around my property--but they ARE in a spot that is too sunny for them (we had to remove a tree) and I need to put a "real" (as opposed to lenten) rose there. Long story--bad info--"New Dawn" must be moved. ANYHOO--I really need to move this rose--but it's gettting LATE for moving ANYTHING down here. If I dig'em up, keep the roots intact, and am good about watering them--will they survive? Or am I asking for trouble? I'm in zone 7b--Chapel Hill NC--if that helps.

Thanks for all your expertise. And just so y'all know--I DID do a search before I posted!


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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

No you're not nuts, but if they've been 10 years they'll probably be pretty big, a real need for a helper, or even 2 on hand with forks to help you. I'm guessing about 20-25" round base of plant with 70+ flowering stems?? I have done this and not lost any of the divisions.

Water well for 2 days beforehand, sets the plant up well and also softens the ground.

Prepare big deep holes in your new site the day before, you can expect a root ball about 15" bigger than the base of the plant, so double that for the preparation area. Take the opportunity to get a good amount of humous into the new site, water the new site well the day before and again a couple of hours before.

The best time to move them is just after the flowers go over and the new leaves are just pushing through. (If there's lots of leaf it's a bit harder to see what you're doing, there's more to get damaged and water loss through the leaf is greater, transpiration.) I guess that would be a month ago, don't worry unduly, the key is the amount of TLC you'll give it after transplanting. Cut all flower stalks and seed pods off.

Loosen all round, and get your helpers to assist with the lift.

Once the plant is out of the ground, keep going and don't let the roots dry out, hence the advance preparation of the new site(s).

You can divide at this time, if you want to(it might be your only option with a 10 year old plant, if you can't get it out the ground in one piece). Wash as much soil off as possible fronm the crown of the plant, so that you can see the roots and where the growing points are coming from. Protect the new white roots, the old black ones are not so relevant. Try to divide into big clumps, (you can go down to single growing points but they are likely have at least 1 blind year without flowers) I find that sections about 6" round will have 4-7 good growing points, and usually carry on flowering as if they hadn't been affected. It's probably easiest to cut the plant in half with a sharp spade initially, once you can get into the crown, it's easier to see logical splits.
Divide with a sharp axe and a hammer...a sharp spade, the plant will tell you what it needs. You can dust the cut surfaces with flowers of sulphur as a precaution against fungal infection, but good clean cuts are quite good at healing themselves.

If doing the whole plant, don't worry about washing the roots off etc, just get it back into the soil at the same depth as before, backfill with a good rich mix of your soil and added humous and water well.

If splitting, replant the sections with the crown of growing tips about 1" below the surface, if potting any up use good deep pots, water well, but don't leave sitting in water. Leave them in a cool shady place, (I put mine under a hedge) watering them each day for a week or so.

Cut off any badly damaged foliage as you would with last years growth, as this is how infections get in.

They're bound to wilt a bit for a day or two, keep them shaded, keep them watered without being waterlogged and you should be absolutely fine. My bet is that they'll enjoy the new rich site and that you'll have a fantastic show next year.

Cheers Greenmanplants

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 5:02AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Thanks for the reply--I actually found another site for the rose...and am going to wait until VERY early next spring to move these hellebores. I just can't torture them by moving them right really si cruel and unusual punnishment to move plants in June in Chapel Hill NC!

I've copied your instructions to word, and will foolow them to the letter next March/April!


    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 12:39PM
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tecumseh(z5 OH)

I moved my 3 hellebores for the same reason last October in zone 5B. Just watered well and mulched and in December one of them was blooming. The other ones started blooming in early Feb.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 2:35PM
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