September is perfect for transplanting salvia

Last spring, I bought an eye-popping blue perennial salvia that turned out to be a great attraction for bees and wasps. It’s apparently very happy because it has almost taken over the border.  I want to be sure I have this in my garden again next year. Should I simply cut it back, or try to move the whole thing to another part of the yard? And is this the time of year to do it?   



a close up of a flower: Salvia comes in two forms, herbaceous and woody evergreen. Both can be transplanted, and September is a good time to do it.


© UF/IFAS
Salvia comes in two forms, herbaceous and woody evergreen. Both can be transplanted, and September is a good time to do it.



a close up of a flower garden: Canna lily plants come in many cultivars, such as this "Tropicanna Black" with bronze leaves.


© Paula Weatherby/UF/IFAS
Canna lily plants come in many cultivars, such as this “Tropicanna Black” with bronze leaves.

UF’s Gardening Calendar (edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep451#SECTION_9) says that we in Northeast Florida should divide and replant our perennials and bulbs in September. But as  a friend once told me, plants don’t keep calendars, only gardeners do. 

Whether it’s a herbaceous salvia (one that dies down to the ground each year but whose roots remain alive and send up new growth the next year) or a woody evergreen (pretty much what it sounds like, with stems covered with bark)  the process of transplanting is the same.

First, dig the new hole for the plant. You’ll want to move your salvia quickly from its location to its new “digs.” You have already seen the plant’s light requirements (full sun) and clearly want to repeat that  As with most plants, you want the new location to provide good drainage.

The tricky part for Northeast Florida gardeners is to find a day that is not too hot. This September, the days may be getting shorter, but the temperatures still feel like summer.  It will be hard to keep the roots, disturbed by transplanting, moist and able to re-establish in our hot days.  

Dig out as much of the root ball as you can and plant it so the root crown is slightly above the soil line. Water it in well and be sure it doesn’t dry out while getting established.

Since your plant is very large, you might want to divide it.  You certainly can, but keep in mind that dividing is a bit trickier than simply moving the whole plant. Also consider that if your salvia is evergreen it will be fussier than its herbaceous cousin.  

When the plant is out of the ground, tip prune any excessively long roots to make the root ball relatively even. Remove some of the foliage at its base and find where there are logical sections or clumps to divide. A sharp or serrated knife works well for this job. Again, work quickly to prevent further damage to or drying of the roots.

Most perennials benefit from division every two to three years. Division maintains the plant’s health and vigor, as well as filling your and your friends beds and borders with beautiful additions costing only a little sweat equity.

Last spring, I added some great-looking red canna lilies to

Read more