Guidelines for Transplanting Perennials Successfully
The first thing you have to know is "when to transplant". So keep these two things in mind.
The first is spring transplanting when the perennial is dormant or "just" breaking the ground. So when I can "just" see the leaves starting to unfurl in the spring is fine but once those leaves are up and growing, I don't want to transplant when the plant is leafed out and actively growing.
The second is in the fall after the main growing season is over. Here's where beginning gardeners sometimes get into trouble.
In my USDA zone 4, I know I need to get my perennials dug and transplanted, divided or whatever I'm going to do before the end of September. I know this because they need some time to establish their roots before winter comes.
Without adequate time to establish roots in warm soil, there will be root damage and increased winter death rates. So I dig and divide plants even if they look good and I do it towards the end of September even if we haven't had frost and the plants look good. They have stored all the energy they require and whether you see it or not, the decreasing light levels are starting to tell them that winter is coming. They're ready to be transplanted.
For every zone warmer than 4, you can add a week, for every zone colder, subtract a week.
When To Transplant What
Some plants transplant better in the spring and some better in the fall. And while there are exceptions, the rule of thumb is that "if it blooms in the spring,transplant in the fall. If it blooms in the summer or fall, transplant in the spring"
That's a rule of thumb for beginners. Once you have a bit of experience (or daring) you'll quickly understand that transplanting perennials is easy because the vast majority of plants can be dug and moved or divided very early in the spring or early in the fall without a lot of damage.
If You Aren't Sure
Transplant it in the very early spring. I do the vast majority of my own transplanting in the early spring. With the possible exception of peonies, my experience is that all other perennials do just fine. Peonies can also be spring-transplanted but I've done better with an early fall move with them.
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