Steele: Dividing and moving perennials

Spring is the best time to divide and/or move ornamental grasses and summer and fall blooming perennials. (Perennials are plants that die to the ground in winter and re-grow from their roots in spring. They do not have a woody stem.)

When I sold my nursery and moved to this garden I brought many plant friends with me and planted them in the existing vegetable garden. It became my ‘nursery bed’ – a collection of plants waiting for me to make garden beds for them.

Seven years later, I am still happily moving plants around to try pieces in various conditions. My main focus is to group plants by water needs and put them in their ideal amount of sun or shade.

Each new garden bed gets lots of organic matter worked into the soil (manure, compost, etc.) because it’s very hard to improve soil once the plants are in it. Good soil means peak performance, healthy plants and reduced maintenance.

The main reasons I divide plants are to make more clumps of a particular plant, to rejuvenate a plant that has died out in the centre, to curtail a plant that has spread too far or to relieve overcrowding.

Before dividing or moving a plant, I make sure the roots are well soaked. I dig all around it to get as much root as possible. If I want many new plants, I wash the soil off the roots so I can see where to snip to make sure there is at least one growing shoot on each bunch of roots I divide. Then I pot them up or replant right away. If I’m dividing a large clump, I find it’s easier to cut it with a spade while in the ground.

It’s best to replant right away. If I can’t, I put the plants in a shaded spot in a big pot and make sure the roots don’t dry out.

Before planting, I fill the planting hole with water and let it drain and I make sure the plant roots are moist by dunking them in a bucket of water.

A warning: it’s best to discard plants that have invasive weed roots like couch grass or morning glory in them. If it’s a plant you cannot part with, wash all the soil off the roots and be sure to remove all the weed roots. Also watch for weed in any plants you bring into your garden.

Xeriscape classes begin May 4.

Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.



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