It’s hard to get out in the garden and get anything done with all this water that seems to be pooling up everywhere. But then I realized that it is still early, and it won’t hurt for me to wait another week for things to dry up a bit outside.
This is the perfect weather for dividing perennials. Usually I go about this in the fall, but the spring is even better because it gives your plants ample time to develop new roots that will help them make it through the winter.
Overcast rainy days are best because the sun isn’t beating down on your plants while they are still trying to recover. If you have ever tried to transplant something on a hot sunny day you already know that it will cause your plants to experience what is known as shock. Plant shock is when plants go into extreme wilting and have a hard time, because their feeder roots are not where they were or have been possibly severed.
If you have a week of rainy days and mild temperatures coming up, which looks to be our current forecast, get out there and start dividing some plants.
But how do you know when a plant needs divided? Plants typically reach a mature size and then they begin crowding their own selves out. If you ever see a big bunch of daylilies and the center looks to be dying out, those are a couple of years already past needing to be divided. But you can still save them and separate them into smaller sections to replant.
When a plant matures, it creates new starts that each can grow into their own mature plant as well. When too many of these crowd the mother plant, which is the original plant that you planted, they start taking all of nutrients and energy from the main part of the plant causing it to weaken and sometimes die.
The best way to divide a plant is to dig the entire plant up and set it on a tarp so that you can give it a good look over. Use a sharp shovel or pair of pruners to separate it into smaller pieces. I usually start by taking my shovel and quartering the plant. I do tend to knock some leaves off, and it is a bit messy, but the leaves will grow back once you have that section back into the ground and replanted.
If your quartered your plant and the sections still seem too large, go ahead and cut it into smaller pieces again. In my experience, if it has roots, it will grow. They key is to have a plan before you begin to divide your plant so that you know where you will replant all your new divisions. The quicker you can get everything back into soil the better things will recover.
Most perennials require division roughly every five years, but my hostas and daylilies seem to thrive when I divide them every three. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a notebook so that you can remember from year to year what you did, where you moved it to, and where it originally came from.
Make the most of these rainy days and check on those perennials that would love a little TLC in the form of being divided. You’ll be surprised just how well they benefit from it as they continue to grow all summer and year after year.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at email@example.com.