Most Read: Local

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 08/11/2011

Moving plants can be a moving experience

Summer planting tips from a gardening meteorologist...

Before I launch into today’s topic, I will make my bi-weekly appeal to water any trees you are able to. It is a sad sight to see so many young trees dying all over the metro area. As you can see below, since last we spoke, conditions have not improved at all. In fact, the U.S. Drought Monitor offically designates our region in a moderate drought

(Great Plains Regional Climate Center)
Despite a few showers in the past two weeks, much of the area continues to see less than half of normal rainfall. More painful was being ground zero for the unending heat this season with readings running about six degrees above average.

While the next week at least offers some temporary relief from the heat, I fear that we will still be short changed on rains and that another notable heat event is still likely later this month. All I can say is hang in there and keep watering.

I figured that while the weather took a little break from the baking we have seen all summer, this would be a good time to talk about moving plants.

Moving plants

I have joked before that at this point in the life of my garden I spend as much time rearranging plants as I do planting new ones. One could contend that if I were more careful with my planning, this would not be such a big task…and you would be at least partially right. However, not all things are avoidable or foreseeable.

A plant outgrowing its space is one of the main reasons for moving it. This can be due to crowding in a new planting bed but sometimes plants are just overachievers and get bigger than the label says. I have a curly willow tree that did not get enough water the first year (they are notoriously thirsty) and lost all of its leaves. The only thing that came back the next spring were suckers at the base. Anyone who knows me knows I have a hard time throwing out a plant, so I plopped my curly willow “shrub” in a side bed next to a camellia. Lo and behold, the thing is growing out of control now and I can probably prune it into a respectable tree again!

However, this means I need to move the camellia. To get the camellia ready to move, it is best to root prune it. This means that I had to take a sharp long shovel and cut the roots all around the drip line of the plant. This forces the plant to put out new root growth at the cut ends and will help it to re-root faster when I move it. In addition, there won’t be as much damage to the roots at that time.

Fall is always my favorite time to move plants. Not only is it cooler for me, but less stress for the plants too. Soil temperatures are still high and promote good root establishment.

Joel Lerner mentioned in his weekly gardening article in the Post Real Estate section on Saturday that now is a good time to divide and move irises and describes good techniques. Many perennials will naturally outgrow their space and need to be divided and now is a good time. The great bonus in doing this is that it invigorates the blooming of the plant for years to come. In addition, you double the number of plants you have or give them away to friends and become quite popular.

Changing light conditions is another good reason for moving plants is. I have a maple tree that is rapidly growing in size. Plants on its east side will soon be losing a lot of afternoon sun. This means that those goldenrod and Joe Pye weeds are not going to be as happy as they once were. A short trip to the south side of the tree will do the trick.

I admit sometimes I move things just for esthetics; for instance when I find a better way to blend colors or bloom times than I had envisioned. A change of scenery is just what I need on occasion. I would like to hear about your gardens and your tips too. Until next time, happy gardening and pray for fall!

Capital Weather Gang meteorologist David Streit is also an active gardener. He earned a certificate in landscape design from the USDA Graduate School and volunteered many years at the National Arboretum.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 08/11/2011

Categories:  Environment, Local Climate, Latest, Gardening

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company