When can I dig up established perennials to move?

Lispeth(Z4-5 NY)April 10, 2005

Hi everyone! I'm fairly new to this forum-been spending a lot of time in the Kitchen's forum but need to focus now on the yard...

We are in the process of moving to a 'new' old house and getting ready to put our house on the market. I've spent years here getting my perennials established and hope to take as much as I can with me. Right now I'm working on getting the North side of the new house landscaped. This will be our 'guest' entry and while it's been neglected for years, it has great potential. I have the following plants to bring from my gardens here but I'm not sure when it's 'safe' to divide them and bring them to the new location. Is there a rule of thumb as to how big they should be before I dig? I usually do my dividing around the middle-end of May but hoped I could get started a bit earlier. This is what I have to bring:

hostas (many varieties)

Japanese ferns

Maidenhair ferns

misc. ferns (wild)


dead nettle


Periwinkle/sorcerer's violet (ground cover)

Also, my orange daylillies (my Dad used to call them 'ditch lillies') are about 3" tall-is it too early to move them? The other varieties I have are still just poking their heads above the soil. I live about 30 minutes west of Albany and the new house is just a bit further than that.

Thanks in advance!

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You can dig them up now! In fact, early spring is the best time because they can get settled before they have stems and large leaves to support and before the heat and drought set in.

You can dig and divide at any size. Take pieces or whole plants. Just be sure to keep the roots wrapped and moist and put them in the shade till you have a bed dug in which to plant them, even if it's only a temporary nursery bed.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2005 at 8:35AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I just dug up and divided my coral bells over the week-end along with some jacob's ladder. Will be doing hostas as soon as they emerge so I know where they are


    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 7:43AM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

I will also be moving some more jacob's ladder but I want to wait a couple of days as we are supposed to have low 30's the next couple of nights.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 12:58PM
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Don't dig them all up - remember curb appeal helps sell the house:) Make sure the new buyers knows what's staying and what's going to prevent any issues. Good luck with the new house!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 7:12PM
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Lispeth(Z4-5 NY)

Thanks everyone for the answers! I thought I had remembered my GM telling me that established plants can be moved as soon as they come up, and that the 'newbies'-i.e. anything you buy at the nursery- need to acclimate before planting.

maisoui1~I hear you! I don't want to leave big gapping holes in my current beds either. Good thing is that the north/shade bed needs dividing so now is a good time! My biggest concern is finding a buyer who will love my babies as much as I do...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 8:35PM
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dmb33(z5 CNY)

I just moved some of my 3" ditch lillies from my little yard in the city to my SIL's new house with a large yard. So far they are doing fine. They are so hardy they should do fine. From everything I've read, early spring is def. the best time to transplant.

As for the moving thing, if you can move a lot of your "babies" b-4 the old house is being shown, that would be better. Nothing worse than false advertising. When we bought our house 2 years ago, some of the charming interior fixtures that we assumed were permanent we taken with the family b-4 they moved out. It was no great monitary value, but still I was disappointed and a little upset when they weren't there. (But not so upset that I would pursue it with them....)

OTOH, my mother told me that one house we lived in growing up, the previous owners put a contigency clause in the contract that said they got to take the azaleas, or something else like that!

I do agree with the "curb appeal" factor. Maybe when it warms up you could put pretty annuals in the bare spots.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 1:11PM
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The woman who bought my house wanted all the perennial beds intact. I said, SURE! What did she know what was there? It was early spring. I took everything I wanted and left pieces in the ground to regrow. I left her some gardening magazines and put her on the mailing lists of some good seed/plant catalogs.

My realtor called me a year later and said the woman was thrilled at the beauty and succession of bloom of the gardens, and that I was invited to come get whatever I wanted. (I already had what I wanted.)

She was not a gardener. You can't wait for a gardener to buy your house or it will sit for a long time, unless you're lucky. Hopefully I inspired her to garden, but I have never driven past the house because I don't want to be heartbroken. My memories and photos are all I need, along with those beloved plants (which were almost all eaten this winter by voles, but pieces remained for regeneration...and on it goes.)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 5:12PM
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All of this advice is helping me as I am putting my house in Dutchess County up for sale on May 1. I am moving I think near you Lispeth, to Fultonville. Is that anywhere you are now or are going to?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 6:50PM
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Lispeth(Z4-5 NY)

susanzone5~I fear the same thing with this place..the new owner won't have a clue and my plants will suffer. My husband will have to drive by here each day on his way to work and he said it's going to be tough...

Giniene~Actually Fultonville isn't too far from where we're moving to (Duanesburg) and once upon a time I lived not far at all from there in a tiny little hunk of land called Fort Johnson, and my Mom currently lives about 15 minutes from Fultonville. I didn't think people actually moved there anymore! Just kidding. There are many beautiful old homes there and the Mohawk river is nice if you boat. If you enjoy 'gourmet' food you'll have to take a trip on Rt. 5 west to Little Falls and check out Beardslee Castle. A friend of my husband owns it. When are you moving?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 7:00PM
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hammerl(z5-6 Amherst NY)

Two stories...

My grandfather died many years ago. We made no provisions to dig up or take any of his many beautiful plants. We sold the house. Within a year we drove by, only to find every single plant had been pulled and the entire yard grassed over.

My husband's cousin is disabled, in a wheelchair, and unable to garden. She bought a small single-story house two years ago, with massive perennial beds in the backyard. The property backs up to a right-of-way that is a field. Needless to say, by the end of last summer there were weeds everywhere in the flower beds. Sight unseen and without knowing how much work was involved, I agreed to weed the beds in the backyard, on hearing her brother and sister-in-law had done the front and surrendered. On seeing what was there, and after several weekends of backbreaking work, we decided to pare down her beds. I took plants from around the yard with different bloom times and clustered them into a 15' bed by the patio. My husband and I then began the great dig-out, where I salvaged as many plants remaining as I could from the one side of the yard. Took many home. Gave many away. Never had time to finish the other side, should head over there in a few more weeks to finish. Moved all the tulip and daff bulbs we kept finding to the front of her house and replanted them in the front beds. Moved some miniature roses we kept finding under the weeds to the front walkway. Planted a lilac last fall and have a couple roses on order. Plan to grass the rest.

I'm sure the woman who lived there would cry if she saw the backyard now compared to how it looked when she moved, but she'd have cried in July, too, with six-foot tall weeds taking over the beds. At least its current occupant can enjoy a reduced-scale bed from her back patio (which she can access), and see spring color in her front yard.

If you want plants, make sure it's known what's not staying and take it. Don't feel guilt about it, the new people may not want it or may not be able to care for it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 9:48AM
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Lispeth, we bought 38 acres and a small house in Fultonville, just want to get away from the crowds, traffic and living too close to the city. The house is being extended, it's a little small so there will be construction for about 3 or 4 months. We hope to get in sometime in August. I know where Fort Johnson is, I think. Or maybe I am confusing it with Johnstown. My mom has lived in Amsterdam for about 10 years and I want to live closer to her also, I'm now about 2 hours away. Thanks for the tip about Beardslee Castle, I will definitely check it out. I, too, am worried about my garden and will the new owners take care of it. Since everything will not be blooming yet by May 1 when I put my house on the market, I have pictures that I will leave on the kitchen table for prospective buyers to see what it looks like in full bloom. My realtor did say that it would be a nice selling point.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 6:55AM
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I know just what u all are feeling about the left behind plants.
The first home I sold i walk away and started over. 11 years later I moved again. This time I took half of everything, and put in holding beds. About 6 to 8 months later the new owner calls and says that I can come back and take what ever I want. so my SIL and I did. I took the rest. I am glad I did. now that I don't live there the Deer have moved in and are very fat. I had dogs, the deer stayed away from the yard.I don't drive by very often, and I have not been in my old house. My hubby has he tells me about it. but it is not the same The flowerbeds made a big differance there. The new owner is not a gardener.but he tries to be. But you have to be home and pay attention to your plants.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 8:47AM
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