A Greener View: Moving bulbs when flowers die back to ground

Q: I have exotic lilies in my garden. They grow 4 to 5 feet tall and have beautiful, yellow, scented flowers every year. They are about 4 years old. I want to move their location, but I don’t know what time of year to do this. I do not want to damage them. Is there a good time to move them, and if so, how should it be done?

A: The best thing to do is to wait until the leaves on the stems of the lilies turn yellow and die in the fall. At that time, you can dig them up and replant them, or, if there are small baby bulbs, you can move them to even more new places. Different lilies bloom in the spring, summer and fall, so the digging date depends on the time when the lily dies back in the ground. If there is an emergency and they need to be moved during the growing season, you will need to dig a larger ball of roots, but lilies have bulbs that store water, so they should move without much of a problem.

Dig around the spot the stem is coming out of the ground carefully, as the bulbs can be damaged by the shovel. Digging a wider hole and then moving in closer is better. Damaged bulbs should be left out of the ground for a few days to dry the cut area before replanting. The bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry location for several months before replanting, but the sooner they are replanted the better. Replant the bulb as deep in the ground as they were originally. Mix some organic matter into the hole, especially below the depth of the bulb, so the roots can grow down into the good soil.

Q: We need help. We had a very large tree growing in the front yard. We had it taken down and the trunk ground down. The soil sat dormant for about eight weeks. We then added some good dirt at the same location and planted a Japanese fern tree. It is doing well.

The problem is that the root extensions of the tree are shooting up massive amounts of sprouts through the grass. I applied Roundup on the roots I could reach, but the only thing that did was kill the grass. With all the rain, these roots are getting really aggressive and sending up more and more sprouts.

I need a good recommendation that will correct this problem, short of digging up those huge roots and not disturbing the Japanese fern. The tree was very large when we removed it. Can you help?

A: You were on the right track spraying, but let’s make a couple of small changes. Don’t use a total plant killer such as Roundup; use a broad-leafed plant killer that only affects plants that are not grasses. Don’t apply it to the roots. Apply it to the new growth that is sprouting up. To keep the weed killer from drifting on to other broad-leafed plants that you don’t want to kill, it may be better to paint it on and not spray it on. Because of the size of the root system from the old tree, there may be a lot of stored nutrients available to send up sprouts for quite some time. If you stop for several weeks, the new sprouts may be able to replenish any nutrients they consumed in their growth, and it will look like the tree is winning. Just keep repeating the treatment, and you will win.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com.

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