Moving a Garden in the Fall*


Hello :) I have a time-sensitive question and would greatly appreciate your help. We are moving within the next couple of weeks from the suburbs to the country side. We did not expect to move so I had my garden prepped for the winter here. Over the years I have invested a lot of time and work in some of my plants and it breaks my heart to think that they might be all torn out by whoever takes them over. Is it possible to dig up roses and perennials, such as lavender or brown-eyed Susans and peonies, right now in late October (as long as the ground is not yet frozen) put them in large pots with soil and hibernate them in say a garage? Thank you so much for your time!!!


Thank you for your inquiry.  It should be possible to relocate some of your plants and assuming that you have made an agreement with whomever purchased your home that is okay for you to be taking some of the garden with you.   Check to make sure the plants you are moving are hardy to the zone you are relocating to.

It is best to move perennials when temperatures are not overly warm and the plant is dormant.  Be sure to obtain as much of the root as possible when digging up the plant.  Put the plants in pots that provide plenty of room and keep the soil moist.  We would also recommend you transport your plants in a closed vehicle to avoid any wind damage.  As you are travelling to the country, check the moisture level in the pots when you arrive.  The root systems will now be more vulnerable to cold than if they were kept in the ground.  Group the plants together in your shed/garage and occasionally check the moisture level as they may dry out.  These tips will improve your chance of success.

This link provides information on methods for overwintering perennials in pots.

With respect to moving roses, we have included the following,  provided in a previous inquiry:

As roses are sensitive to shock, moving them while dormant (in late winter or early spring) is generally recommended.

Roses can be moved during the growing season if they have the right amount of water.  You want to water deeply before transplanting, so all the cells of the rose are as full of water as possible.  This lessens the demands on the roots.  Again, dig far enough away from the root ball that you do not damage the roots and are able to take as much of the root as possible.  If the rose is wilting when transplanted it may not survive.  You can elect not to cut the rose back letting it decide how much of its top it can support.  Prune any dried or dead material from the plant.  Or you can elect to cut the taller canes down to a manageable height before digging it up.  Some prefer to match the height of the rose canes to the size of the root ball, which is acceptable also.  Again, wait until there is new growth to resume regular fertilizing.

Before you move a rose bush, there are some important things to know.  Roses thrive in areas with good, fertile soil enriched with organic matter.  They also require plenty of sun and water.  With this in mind, be sure to transplant roses to similar locations and conditions.

While it would be best for the roses if you to transplant them to their permanent location, you can try to overwinter them in pots buried in the soil at your new location.  In this instance you would dig a hole and plant the rose within the pot in a sheltered location.  This would create further shock to your plants and should be avoided if at all possible.

Always prepare the bed or planting hole in advance, working in plenty of compost.  The hole should be at least 15 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the rootball and root system (approximately 12 inches or so).  Build up a small mound of soil in the centre of the hole for your rose bush to sit on.  Rose bushes should also be watered thoroughly for about two days prior to transplanting.  For best results, choose an overcast day for transplanting rose bushes.

In addition to knowing when transplanting rose bushes is best and preparation beforehand, it’s important to know how to transplant a rose bush.  Once the hole has been properly prepared and the rose significantly watered, you’re ready to move it.  Dig about 12 inches around the bush and approximately 15 inches deep.  Carefully lift out the rootball, taking as much soil with it as possible. Place the bush in the hole on the mound, spreading out the roots.  The rose bush should be sitting slightly above ground level.  Fill in around the rose bush with half the excavated soil.  Then water it thoroughly, allowing it to fill up and drain before backfilling with the remaining soil.  Press down firmly to eliminate any air pockets.  After planting, prune the rose back as much as possible using angled cuts and removing any spindly, unsightly, or weakened branches.  Continue to keep the rose bush watered.

If you follow these tips for transplanting a rose bush, your chances of success will be greatly improved.

This link to a previous question on the Toronto Master Gardeners’ website provides some information on overwintering roses in containers.