In the second half of our post on Spring Perennials, we are going to highlight why you should divide your perennials and we let you know our favorite perennials. Please let us know your favorite ones.
While purchasing new plants for your garden is always fun it can be equally enjoyable to increase your collection by dividing your favorite existing plants. Perennials are a staple of many gardens and it’s easy to “get more of a good thing” if you know how to go about it! The process by which you expand your perennial collection is called division. When to dig up and split perennials will depend upon the particular plant you are working with but they all will usually provide a signal to you when they are ready to be divided. If they are not blooming prolifically than the perennial plant is telling you it is time for division. Overcrowding causes the number of blooms to decrease and division is the way to get your plants to bloom as you expect them too.
If you’ve never divided perennials before the process may seem a little draconian but trust me it is for the plants own good! The first step in the process is to use a spade or shovel to dig out the perennial clump. You’ll want to dig down about a foot to ensure that you retain as much of the root system as you possibly can. The next step involves dividing the clump into smaller pieces. You’ll often see that once you’ve dug up the plant that there are a lot of smaller plants on the outside of the clump. These can be gently pulled away from the main clump to be planted as well.
This is where things can get “ugly”. Some gardeners use a sharp spade, a pitchfork or even a knife with a serrated edge to separate the clump into either halves or quarters. Regardless of what method you choose remember that perennials are tough and you are actually helping the plant by dividing it. You can then take these pieces and plant them in other parts of your garden with the root system just below the soil line. Give them a good soaking with the hose and some mulch and they are ready for action. The larger the clump that you have the quicker it will grow to maturity, but you can expect to have to perform this task every 4 to 6 years in most gardens.
So, now that you know all about dividing perennials it is time to “go forth and multiply”!
Our Favorite Spring Perennials
These are some of our favorite perennials that you can try to plant this spring:
Peony - Peonies require cold weather such as is found in garden zones 3 through 8 and as a result are not well suited for frost-free areas. Their large, majestic flowers can be up to 4 feet off of the ground and come in colors such as pink, red, white and yellow. They look particularly impressive in mass plantings and these flowers can also be quite fragrant. There is no doubt that Peonies are beautiful, but they can also be a little persnickety. They don’t like to have their roots disturbed and transplanting them can be a real challenge. You’ll want to find a spot where the soil is fertile, drains well and gets a lot of sunshine. Make sure you dig the hole at least a foot or two deep to allow the roots to grow with no obstacles such as stones or roots. You may also have to wait for up to 2 years for a newly planted peony to bloom but your patience will be rewarded as once established peonies can flower for decades.
Daylilies - Daylilies start blooming in May and continue into August and even September depending upon the variety of daylily you’ve planted. They grow in USDA Zones 3 through 9 in pretty much any soil type and while they prefer full sun conditions they will also bloom in the shady as well. Smaller varieties such as Stella Doro’s can also be grown in containers. Every year there seem to be new varieties of daylilies hitting the marketplace. They come in pretty much every color you can think of with sizes that vary from 1 foot to 3 feet tall. There are plenty of varieties that are re-bloomers meaning they will give you a burst of bloom in the spring to early summer and then again later in the summer into the fall. If you plant a flower bed and mix the varieties of daylilies correctly you can have daylilies blooming in that flower bed from spring to fall nonstop.
Hosta - Spring is a great time to split an existing bed of Hosta or add some new ones to your garden. Their colorful foliage really brightens up those shady spots in your yard. Hostas are also very hardy and can live in your garden for decades. They grow best in zones 3 to 8 and prefer soil that is moist but drains well. While they are grown most frequently for their foliage, many varieties also have white or purple flowers which can be quite fragrant. This is a very undemanding plant considering how exotic some of their leaves can look.
Lily of the Valley - Nothing says spring more than the bell-shaped flowers of Lily of the Valley. In addition to the fragrant blooms, it has broad green leaves and it’s vigorous, spreading growing habit make it an ideal groundcover. Plants grow about 10 inches tall and are hardy in garden zones 2 through 8. Lily of the Valley grows in shady areas with soil that is moist, but well-drained. It can be divided after it finishes blooming. Most varieties have white flowers, but “Rosea’s” are pink.
Trillium - Trillium are members of the Lily family and a popular choice for woodland gardens. They are native to garden zones 3 through 9. As a woodland plant, they grow in shady areas and prefer soil that is moist, rich and that drains well. Once they are planted, Trillium can take up to 7 years to bloom so it is important to locate them in an area where they are likely not to be disturbed or accidentally unearthed. They will spread over time and become almost like a groundcover. They are a good companion plant to other woodland favorites such as ferns.