Preparing Transplants for Next Spring

Article written by blogger Jennah Watters from Jennah's Garden

If hard frost hasn't hit your area yet, there's still time to get transplants ready for spring! I move plants around often, and quite frequently don't get around to planting them until long after I've dug them up (planting procrastination!). Here's how I prepare my plants for winter if they're going to have to tough out a winter before I actually get around to planting them.


When digging up the plant from its current home, do only light pruning if necessary. Sometimes you have to cut back a larger plant to be able to get to the roots and transport it. That's fine, but try to make pruning as minimal as possible. Heavy pruning just adds to the list of the things a plant already has to account for when dug up and moved around. If it's a perennial that usually dies back in the winter, feel free to go crazy with pruning.

After pruning, start digging several inches out from the base of the plant (or at least a foot for a large shrub). Dig down a bit all around the plant until you get a good feel for the root ball. Try not to damage the root ball and keep all roots as intact as possible when digging. This will make it easier for your plant to get nutrients now and in the spring when it finds its full-time home.

Once you've dug up your plant, put it in a large pot. I recommend thick plastic pots: these provide shelter from cold, but also won't crack during frost heaves and are less heavy than alternatives. You want the pot to be big enough to fit a good barrier of potting soil all around the root ball. This will help protect the roots and mimic the plant being underground like it normally would be, had you not dug it up. Stick the plant in the pot with plenty of soil and give it a good watering. Be sure to label what's in your pots. You'd be surprised how easy it is to forget several months later!

Store your pots in a sheltered location, such as along the side of a house or garage. Remember that you still want the plants to be able to get some precipitation from rain or snow. I also like to rake leaves and stuff them around the pots for some extra protection. As the leaves break down in the winter and spring, they provide a boost of nutrients.

When spring arrives, wait for your plants to sprout and water them normally until they get large enough for replanting. Once they've sprouted and you've determined where their new home will be (be sure to account for sunlight, water needs, and the plant's mature size), plant them as you would any new planting and water them well. They'll be happy in no time!

You may find, though, that you like them in their pots! I plant lots of perennials in pots (daylilies are great), and it's a great option whether they stay there for a season or two, or even permanently.