Help transplant lilac, peonies, daffodils : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I live on a very old homestead. The government is going to put a road through our yard. The road will take all my plants and perennials that those before me planted along with our 100 yr old trees. I would like to transplant what I can onto our new farm. I have figured out how to do most of them even my old grapevines, but I have beautiful lilacs and peonies that I don't know how to transplant or start. Also Ajuga and daylilies. I know fall is the time to transplant daffodils, but can I do it now? How deep do I plant them? Can't save the trees but I'll save what I can. I guess I'm being sentimental but so much work will be bulldozed down. Thanks for any help you can give. T. Crockett

-- T. CROCKETT (, March 13, 2001


Most plants are best transplanted when they are dormant. Since you won't have the luxury of waiting for next fall, it is important to do this now, before they break dormancy (and besides, if they're going to bulldoze, what have you got to lose?).

Lilacs are fairly hardy, but the root mass may be quite large if these are old bushes. The good news is that they transplant fairly well. When you transplant them, if they are large (ours were so big we had to skid them with a truck), you will probably have to do some root pruning (any that break or tear should be trimmed smoothly) on them. It will probably be a good idea to cut back a number of the shoots to a height of about 6" at this time so that the plants are not putting all their strength into trying to support a lot of foliage while they re-establish their roots. Also think about using some of the rooting boosters while transplanting (with B vitamins). You need to replant them at the same depth they are growing at now and not bury the collar any deeper than it already is. Lilacs really like old rotted manure, so if you work some well into the hole before you transplant, it will help them. Top dressing in successive years will be appreciated. Make sure to water them deeply twice a week this summer, and once a week next year, more often if you have a dry summer, but you want to have good drainage and let the soil drain away before watering again so you don't rot the roots, or drown them with too much water.(yes, it is possible to drown a plant, their roots need oxygen too and too much water has the same effect on them)

Peonies have very brittle roots, and you will have to take a lot of care in transplanting them not to break them and not to dislodge the developing stem buds while you're doing this. Peonies don't like be transplanted, but in this case you have no choice, so do it carefully, and take extra care preparing the hole for them. They like full sun best, and will take a slightly acid soil alright. The sprouting eyes should be covered no more than an inch and a half deep for herbaceous peonies, if you plant them too deeply, they will not bloom. Incorporate bone meal, peat moss, and compost at planting time. A light dusting of hardwood ash in late winter each year is beneficial.

If you dig up the daffodils with the rootballs intact and replant them in their new location, plant them again at the same depth, and incorporate bulb food or bone meal as usual, and water them in well to settle. I think that I would cut off the buds before they bloomed the first year to make sure that their strength went into re- establishing.

Daylilies and ajuga are easy. Daylilies can be transplanted any time of the year the soil can be worked, and stand up to much abuse. They may also benefit from division at this time, especially if they are the old original orange type, as those tend to reproduce so fast that they rootbind themselves. Once again, planting at the same depth they grew at (although they are not fussy about the manner). Also enrich the soil in their new location with bone meal and bulb food applications, any compost would likewise be appreciated by them, altho 10-10-10 fertilizer will do if you don't have enough. Ajuga roots readily from the nodes on the stem where it lies on the ground, so transplanting them with their existing roots and burying the stems shallowly with dirt will establish them quickly. Keeping them watered will speed the process up.

It is a tragedy about the trees...I don't know what can be done, but here in our state several times the public has rallied to save old trees from the way of 'progress' and public opinion has kept the trees up and made them reroute.

-- julie f. (, March 14, 2001.

Full grown lilacs are tough... But, dig as far out as you can (around the leaf line). You can prune the roots after they are out of the ground. Prune back branches so they are about equal with roots.

Peonies are easy. Just dig out what you can and transplant. I've never been able to kill them, so they must be hardy!! We tried to remove my Grandmother's, got tons of new 'bushes' at Moms. They didn't flower for the first two years, though. Went to see what happened to Gram's old place and lo and behold - still had all her peonies!!!

If you don't want to replant the daffies in the Spring, dry out the bulbs really well, and store in a dark place. Then just put them in in the fall... Probably about 3 - 4 inches deep.

Lilies of all sorts can just be dug up and planted again. They don't require trimming of roots, etc. And, as long as you get a good part of the 'white' you should be fine. They should bloom the year after you plant them, but some will bloom the first year.

Trees: Take some hardwood cuttings. I know it works, but not sure how to do it. I have a plant propagation book that tells how, if you want me to look just email me!

-- Sue Diederich (, March 14, 2001.

Thanks for your quick responses. I am working on it on all nice weathered days. Can I get starts from those lilac bushes somehow? (like was suggested for my trees) They are really large. Also echinacea and poppies? any suggestions? T. Crockett

-- T. Crockett (, March 14, 2001.

I have misplaced my best book on plant propagation! However, if you have a common type of lilac that produces suckers from the roots, you can dig those up more easily and transplant just a portion of the original clump that way, just make sure you take some root with it. We gave away 'starts' from ours for years that way.

I seem to recall part of what you did for taking cuttings from lilacs, if suckers are not possible, but even so, I recall that they were kind of iffy and had about a 50% success rate. What I recall was that you needed to take softwood cuttings (I'm pretty sure it was soft wood), and using rooting hormones (not sure which ones were most effective for lilacs specificallly tho without the book), you would stick the cuttings into pots filled with a mixture of half sand and half peat moss, making sure that you had an apical meristem (top bud, actively growing, necessary for the production of rooting hormonal action) for it to work. I believe that you had to halve the leaf mass as well, either cut off the tip end of each leaf, or just remove every other leaf. Then you put the pots into plastic milk crates, which you wrapped in clear plastic around the sides and draped over the top to let light through, air to ventilate, but to conserve humidity, and placed the works under a semi-shade area to root. Even so, it would possibly take 6 months that way.... I am sketchy on these details because I never did it this way, only had read the instructiions in past!

If you have the time, it is possible to bend down a brancy and secure it to the ground, break it a little bit (bend it, not snap), cover with dirt, and let it root itself that way. Or look to see if your lilacs have already done that at any point around the bush as it would be ready-made to dig up and move that portion.

Echinacea should be fairly easy to transplant. Poppies might be problematic. Are these oriental poppies? They develope a very long tap root that is almost impossible to get out on older plants. Young plants that are not so well developed will transplant with greater success. If they are something like corn poppies that reseed themselves, you could try gently lifting some to a new spot. I'm not sure about icelandic poppies, they don't do well for me. In any event, if they are going to bulldoze everything, what have you got to lose in trying?

-- julie f. (, March 14, 2001.

Also, if you find that you may not be able to move everything, try having a "you dig" plant sale. If you have any leftovers after that call the local garden society to come and take what is left.


-- Amy Richards (, March 14, 2001.

In some areas, either through a rental shop or through the city, you can rent a "tree mover" which can dig up and move even very large trees, although for a substantial cost in the case of big ones. It is hard to describe, but sort of like a three or four piece shovel-in- the-round attached to the back of a truck or other "heavy equipment" vehicle. They spread open the shovel flanges around the tree at about the dripline, shove it in and "close" the bottom around the roots, forming a bucket-like shape, then haul it up, dirt and all.

This is often used to save "historic" or endangered species against development, and surely not every place has access to one. But it couldn't hurt to ask around. Check with the rental first, then the gvt., then your friendly, local tree-trimmer guys who do this sort of thing for a living.

Smaller trees (like young-ish dogwoods and such) can be "root-pruned" the year or season before (no idea of your timeline) by "edging" around the dripline as deep as you can. This cuts of the roots at this length and encourages regrowth of "feeder" roots. Keep re- digging the circle monthly and when you have to, hire or borrow some muscle-y guys to come and (using a come along and lots of shovels and such) haul it up. Be sure and have the re-planting hole prepared in either case, as the quicker it is replanted, the less it will suffer.

-- Soni (, March 14, 2001.

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