Late fall is the ideal time to divide and transplant spring and early summer flowering perennials. Soil temperatures are cool right now, which provides the optimum conditions to dig and divide older garden inhabitants.
Plants will not dry out and will have plenty of time to re-establish themselves. Energy will remain stored in the plant’s system, which will initiate new roots.
Try not to wait until the plant looks decrepit or massive. Divide when the plant has been growing in the garden for multiple years, when it begins to produce more foliage than flowers, has weak blooming branches or becomes unruly or invasive to other perennials.
Examples of perennials to divide are coneflower, daylily, salvia, sedum, hosta and shasta daisy, to name a few.
A good rule of thumb is any perennial that grows in a clump can be divided.
Here are a few tips for dividing perennials:
• Make a circle around the circumference of the plant and dig a trench severing some roots but keeping most of the roots and soil intact. Some plants may be very heavy and large and will need to be cut in half during this process.
• Using a sharp instrument such as a pruning saw or sharp spade or shovel, cut the newly dug plant by separating like a slice of cake. Cut in twos or fours depending on how large the plant is. For example, daylilies can be severed in multiple slices. Generally replant 20 percent to 25 percent of the original clump. Perennials multiply quickly and will likely double or triple in size each year.
• Cut the foliage of the plant back to an inch or two. It will not injure the plant.
• To replant, have a hole pre-dug and prepared so plants can be placed directly in the ground. The area should be is well cultivated, twice as deep and wide as the clump to be planted. Take roots and soil and place firmly in the ground, being sure to press the soil tightly around the plant.
• There is no need to fertilize or water after planting, as the ground is moist and cold and the air temperatures are cool.
This also is a good time to evaluate the rose garden, noting plants that are in too much shade or are too close together.
To transplant roses, including the popular knock-out roses, prune back severely (2/3 of the bush), but do not divide.
Follow instructions above for re-planting.
Taking a good survey of the garden now will undoubtedly reveal places that may need a new vision.
A little foresight and TLC now will provide the garden with a rejuvenation which will insure that it looks the very best next year.
Leslie Barlow owns Barlow Flower Farm,
1014 Sea Girt Ave., Sea Girt; 732-449-9189 or www.barlowflowerfarm.com.