Should You Transplant in the Fall or Spring?

Should You Transplant in the Fall or Spring?


Got a plant that is outgrowing its spot in the garden, or maybe one that just didn’t look right where it's planted? Maybe that new Rose is struggling in an area that didn’t get as much sunlight as you anticipated, or a new tree seems to not be happy where frequent puddles form.

It’s time to transplant!

But when is the best time to make the move? Nature Hills is here to help!

While those of us who are old school believe that fall is best for transplanting, planting, and dividing plants, in reality - you can transplant and plant any time of the year when the ground isn’t frozen!

While fall does give your plants 4-5 months' worth of cooler temperatures for roots to establish, or reestablish in this case, without dealing with the demands that summer heat and drought bring, you can actually transplant whenever it is best for you and your plant!

summer garden

If a plant is struggling in its current location, for any reason, moving it to a more ideal location sooner is far better than waiting for the perfect time! Soggy locations, inadequate sunlight, overcrowding, and many other reasons all can take their toll and stress a plant to the point of death!

After you’ve spent hard-earned time and money on them, getting them to a location where they will thrive is more important than timing. Even in the dead of summer.

So the question of transplanting in fall or spring is kind of a trick question!

When Fall Is Best For Transplanting

Fall is a great time to plant and transplant many plants and trees in addition to many other necessary autumn chores. Especially if you are in a growing zone that isn’t expecting your first hard freeze next week, any plant, fall-planted bulb, tree, or shrub can be put in the ground, watered in well, and mulched with great success.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen - plant it!

When Spring is Best For Transplanting

Ma Nature always has exceptions to her every rule and the following plants are best transplanted in the spring.

spring transplanting

  • Fir trees and Jack and Austrian Pines don't prefer planting in the fall, but spring is perfect for them along with all of the other Spruce, Pine, Fir as well as all other evergreen trees and shrubs
  • Avoid transplanting If it has gotten too late in the fall
  • Deciduous trees that seem to do better transplanted in the spring are Musclewood, Ironwood, Magnolia, and Redbud. But remember that Nature Hills offers container-grown plants that can be very successfully transplanted throughout the growing season!
  • Spring-planted flowering Summer-blooming bulbs - These don’t need chill hours to be stimulated to bloom
  • Summer flowering annuals, herbs, and vegetable plants - should be planted outdoors in the spring (after the threat of hard freezes has passed)
  • New plants you purchased in the spring - go ahead and plant them!
  • Seeds and seedlings that were started indoors and hardened off
  • Annual ornamental plants (after the threat of hard freezes has passed)
  • Tender Perennials
  • Broadleaved Evergreen trees and shrubs

When Not to Transplant

There are a few plants that don’t take to being transplanted well and a few instances and times when you shouldn’t transplant at all.

when not to transplant

  • Avoid transplanting if temperatures will be over 90°F for over a week straight or if you are in a heat wave or drought.
  • Avoid transplanting larger or very well-established plants. The toll on their roots can be devastating. You can contact a tree service or arborist who can move larger plants with heavy equipment more successfully than if you tried it yourself.
  • Do not try transplanting established plants that have a Tap Root. These roots go very deep and if it snaps off during the digging process or during replanting, then it’s likely the transplant will fail
  • Do not transplant when the ground is frozen
  • Do not transplant shrubs, perennials, or trees when they are blooming (annuals are usually good to go)
  • Do not dig and transplant established plants that are not dormant.

Transplanting After Care

Taking care of your new transplant is about the same as when you planted it the first time!


  1. Mulch the soil surface with 3-4 inches of arborist bark chips
  2. Water regularly using the Finger Test
  3. Watch for settling soil, and roots that were planted too deeply or too shallow
  4. Give it time!

Monitor your transplant and look for signs of wilting. Wilt occurs both when a plant does not have enough water and when it has too much! Air pockets left in the soil can also create issues by not letting the roots absorb much-needed water.

Check the soil several inches deep to see if it is dry or soggy. Soil that is too dry for too long can become hydrophobic and take frequent waterings to rehydrate. While poor drainage or overly compacted soil will let water pool and rot the roots.

For many perennials and larger shrubs, pruning back some foliage and limbs helps the roots not have as much top growth to support while they work to re-establish in their new home. Remove no more than one-third of the growth at a time.

Get Transplanting!

Nearly any time is a great time to plant and transplant your garden babies! With just a few tips and tricks to keep in mind, you will enjoy a successful relocation of your landscaping every time!

As always, Nature Hills and your local County Extension Office are an email or phone call away for any questions you may have, and our horticultural experts are here for you!

Happy Transplanting!

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