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Gardeners Grow Together Week 16, April, 2021: Dividing Perennials

Welcome to my special gardening page for those of you who like to garden yourselves! Each week, I will make suggestions as to what gardening tasks we need to do every week during the growing season. It will help keep you on track--as well as myself!

To keep things simple, I am using the year's weekly number, Week #1 through #52 (example: the week of January 1 is Week #1), instead of specific dates.

So, come on! Let's get our hands dirty!


Week 16:

Dividing Herbaceous Perennials

What is a herbaceous perennial?

How to divide the plant.

Giant Sedum

Herbaceous Perennials

Herbaceous Perennials are plants that come come back year after year, growing and spreading each season, then die back to the ground in winter. The great thing about perennials, is that they can give you new plants, for free!

Coreopsis "Hot Paprika"

Perennials can be a bit pricey to buy in the beginning, but are a great investment in the long run. They will reward you every year with more and more plants to move around your garden, or to give to friends. Most are easily started from seed, but you must wait at least a year to get blooms from them.

When buying perennials at the garden center, look past the seductive flowers and look closely at the plant itself. Is it one single crown, or are there several? I always buy the pot with multi crowns, even if the flowers don't look as robust as the single crowned ones. You can sometimes get five or six plants in a single pot! The only reason the single crowned plant flower looks better is because it is getting all the nutrients from the potting soil.

Whether dividing potted plants or plants from the garden, the process is the same.

How to Divide Perennials:

Bearded Iris

Each perennial has unique quirks, so do your research. When do your plants flower and when should they be divided? The rule of thumb is, if they bloom in the early spring, it's best to divide just after blooming or in the fall. Summer blooming plants can usually be divided in early spring or fall without much worry. Be especially careful with Peonies and Bearded Iris, as you will disrupt their bloom development if you dig them up and divide them in the spring.

One good indicator that a plant needs dividing, is to look at it straight down from the top. If there is a ring of foliage around a bare center, that is a good sign that it’s time to revive the plant by dividing it.

Use a spade or digging fork and dig around your plant, giving a generous margin so as not to cause much root damage. Gently lift the plant out if the ground and set it on the ground or on a table if it is small enough to handle. Examine your plant. Is it loose and do the individual plants pull away easily, or are they tight and impossible to pull apart with your fingers?

For the loose plants, just pull away the individual plants and set them aside to either pot up, or put back into the ground.

For the tightly bound plants, use a very sharp knife to slice it apart into pieces, or use two digging forks or pitch forks back to back and try to force them apart. Or, chop it in half with a spade. If that doesn’t work, a swift chop with a sharp hatchet works, as well. Trim away any old, dead plant bits and compost them.

If you aren’t going to replant them right away, pot them up with some good compost and water them well. Then place them in a protected area until you are ready to plant them. Got extras? Share them with friends and neighbors.

Better yet, offer to help your neighbor divide their plants and maybe they will share with you!

Day Lilies

Now, let's get busy! If you have questions, put them in the comments below!

~Lee Ann~

Valmont Valley Farm

Where Beautiful Magic is Always in Bloom

If you would like to join in supporting my flower farm and receive beautiful bouquets weekly, please sign up for my Flower CSA! Get all the details here!


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If you find this information inspirational or helpful, I would love it if you would share it with your friends!

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