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Q&A: Moving Flower Bulbs

When is the best time to move flower bulbs from one spot to another, fall or spring?

I have over 1,000 bulbs (yellow and white jonquil daffodils) that have been in the ground for more than 20 years. I would like to re-arrange them and put them in different locations. When is the best time to dig and move them, fall or spring?—Kate, Watkinsville, Ga.

In general it's best to move bulbs right after they go dormant.

The best time to dig up spring-flowering bulbs, such as your daffodils, is about six weeks after they finish blooming. At this point the foliage will have died back (if it hasn’t, wait longer) but you can still see it, which makes locating the bulb easy. There’s less of a chance of damaging the bulb if you can find it easily. Also, by waiting until after the foliage dies, you ensure that the leaves have done their job of replenishing the bulb’s nutrient stores through photosynthesis.

You can either replant the bulbs right away or store them until fall planting time. If you store them, place them in mesh or paper bags in a cool, dark place. Do not seal the bags.

As long as you can easily locate the bulbs, you can also dig them up in fall and transplant them immediately. Summer-flowering bulbs, such as lilies, should be dug and moved in early autumn, after their leaves have turned yellow. Don’t delay getting them back into the ground—they cannot be allowed to dry out.

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