Winter sure seems cold and long for those of us who dream of lush green gardens and colorful flowers. Feels like there’s nothing to do but sit and wait, stare out the windows at those bare trees, and dream of the spring to come. But although it may not be prime spring planting time yet, there are things that can be done in the garden now in preparation for the days ahead.
It may seem like the ground is awfully hard due to some of the freezing temperatures we’ve been having lately, but now is actually a fabulous time to start dividing and re-planting any mature perennial plants in the garden. What feels like frozen ground is, in reality, only a thin crust, and dividing and re-planting perennials now will give your plants plenty of time to re-establish themselves and develop strong roots before the heat of next season kicks in.
Perennials are divided to control their size and to increase their numbers. Short-lived perennials or old perennials that have become crowded with sparse flowers can be kept vigorous and blooming through division. After dividing, the younger sections will flower more prolifically.
A general rule-of-thumb for Piedmont gardeners is to divide spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall, and fall-flowering perennials in late winter/early spring when the new shoots have emerged. It is most important to divide the plants when they are not flowering.
Garden Supply Co. owner, Keith Ramsey, recently shared with me a few tips and tricks for easily and successfully dividing perennials. Step one: carefully dig around the base of your established plant with a pronged pitchfork or sharp-tipped shovel, digging up the entire plant in one piece.
Once the plant is out of the ground, you can now divide your perennial into smaller clumps. Depending on the original size of the plant, you may divide your new plants into 2, 3, 4, or more pieces. Keith divided his one-gallon plant into 4 new sections.
Use a sharp cutting tool to separate the roots of your old perennial. Keith recommends using a Soil Scoop, as the edges are ideal for cutting roots, while the scoop is also useful for filling and general potting. For thicker or more stubborn roots, try the Flex Rake Pruning Saw.
Now your newly-divided perennials are ready for re-planting. Dig a hole as wide as the root-ball and the same depth. Set the plant in the hole so the crown is at or slightly above ground level. Cover and firm the soil lightly around the plant. And to give your new plant a good head start, add a shot of starter fertilizer when planting.
We highly recommend Bio-Tone Starter Plus all natural plant food. This fertilizer won’t burn or harm your plants because it’s completely organic. Perfect for starting new plants or transplanting old.
For more tips and tricks on dividing perennials, replanting, or garden design, stop by the garden center. Our friendly and helpful staff is here 7 days a week to help you with all your gardening needs. If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
Hope to see you all soon!