Three Quick Transplant Stories

Why on earth would I be writing about transplanting in the middle of the dog days of summer? This is not the ideal time to move plants, unless they are irises, but it is the time to note what needs adjusting in the fall. I moved these plants in mid-June. It couldn’t wait any longer, but ideally you want to move plants while they are dormant, preferably in the spring or fall when temperatures are more moderate, and especially when there is a promise of rain—my favorite time to rearrange plants is the day (or morning) before rain is expected.

I noticed the Hepatica seedling hiding under a trillium when I removed the pawpaw, and I noticed the hosta and twinleaf issues as I was wandering around one morning with my coffee. We had a very dry spring, so nothing was getting moved until rain was promised, not just hoped for.

As it happens, these three plants are pretty easy to transplant. Generally, to reduce the shock of a move for a plant, you dig straight down around the perimeter of a plant, and then under it at that depth. This will give you most of the root ball. Twinleaf and Hepatica have wiry roots. Hostas have thick, sturdy roots, and can be a little difficult to dig, but the hosta in question is one of the smaller ones.

A Hepatica came up under the trillium.

Some plants make transplanting easy by having wiry roots that do not snap easily, like Hepatica. They seem to reproduce rather slowly, so if your plants have had offspring, they are worth transplanting. I dug up the seedling I found under the trillium when I removed the pawpaw to move the seedling nearer to the rest of my Hepatica.

A hepatica seedling resting upside down on a well-established plant; the undersides of its leaves are purple. The roots are wiry and fan out from where they connect to the stem. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

The plant is small enough that I cut a slot in the soil and fanned the roots out before closing the slot. I will be keeping a careful eye on water for the remainder of this year.

Freshly transplanted hepatica. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

Now, that is, a couple of weeks later, the plant looks well settled in. We had over 3 inches of rain on June 25, and some lighter rain since. We’ve had enough rain that the lawn is still green and growing despite the 90ish° temperatures.

The hepatica transplant has settled in nicely. Although it is difficult to discern, there is a healthy-looking terminal bud nestled at the top of the union of the leaves and roots. Photographed on July 6, 2021.

These plants will not do much at this point, but early next spring their leaves will disappear and the plants will bloom and grow new foliage.

When I took today’s picture, I checked the undersides of the leaves of the established Hepatica; One had green undersides, one had purple, and one had a more dilute purple. I am betting the flowers match. I will check that next spring.

The hosta border had a gap.

When I created the hosta border around the witch hazel, I divided the original plants pretty aggressively. Many of the transplants were single plants rather than small clumps.

Freshly divided hostas, Diamond Tiara. Photographed on June 10, 2018.

These were put in following my misadventures with some excruciatingly aggressive Scilla bifolia. I not only divided the hostas aggressively, but I spaced them out a bit more than I normally would, making issues a bit more obvious.

Hosta, Diamond Tiara, with a gap, now a hole, between clumps. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

The area with the gap is near the sunny eastern side of the witch hazel, at the top of the 2018 photograph. The plant to the left of the hole could easily have been divided in two; if you look at it carefully, there are two distinct growing points. However, I decided to move the plant intact.

Freshly transplanted hosta; the two growing points separated a bit in the move, making them more obvious. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

I did not actually dig the plant up and drop it into the new hole. I extended the new hole so that it was a short trench from the new to the old spot, and pivoted the plant into the new spot. In other words, not all the roots were severed in the move. Looking at the photographs, dividing the plant may have yielded a neater result, at least temporarily. However, I expect these individual plants to merge into a swath as their much larger hosta relatives have.

The twinleaf was wandering off.

The last transplant this day was a twinleaf seedling that came up a bit far from its relatives. Twinleaf seedlings usually come up in the shade of their elders. I suspect ants made off with some seeds and dropped a few of them as they crossed the woodchips separating two shady plant beds.

Twinleaf has a compact root ball of sturdy, wiry roots. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

I used the same slot method for this transplant as I did for the Hepatica.

The twinleaf seedling in its slot, before closing it up. Photographed on June 19, 2021.

The trick is to make sure that the spot where leaves and roots meet is at ground level.

The transplanted twinleaf. Photographed on July 6, 2021.

The transplanted twinleaf is holding its own. Many of the twinleaf are starting to yellow, as they are about to go into dormancy.


This morning was the first time I had to water the few potted outdoor plants I have, so if we don’t get rain in the next few days—and we are supposed to—I will water the transplants I have written about in this post.