Propagating Perennials, Dig It?

 In Go Go Green Thumbs

Written by: Sumati Shah


Planting season has become almost synonymous with Spring, but Autumn is ideal for a few simple reasons.

Summer heat has warmed the earth, it’s perfect for nurturing root growth of new transplants. Autumn’s cool temperatures signal Flora to store up, slow down, and prepare to rest. There’s no pressure to keep up with the building summer heat while struggling to establish roots in their new digs. (Garden puns are the best – you’re welcome!)

With the beautiful change in colours also comes a host of clean up work in the garden.

As you’re raking the beauty of fallen colours, cutting back, and pulling out,  take a closer look at herbaceous perennials. I usually find myself dividing a few different ones each year.

Whether they’re mature and getting too big for their space, or maybe just because I’d like more of ‘that one plant that really flourishes’…Division is the answer.

Rule of Green ThumbsDivide herbaceous perennials to keep a healthy garden.

Too big?  Divide the root.

Spread the love and give that other half away.

You’ve reduced the root and therefore the spread of the plant, and its neighbours and companions will appreciate the boundaries of personal space being respected for another year or a few.

We all benefit from healthy boundaries!

Putting it on the front lawn with a sign saying what it is….is a surprisingly easy way of passing it forward….gardening with gratitude.

Want more?  Divide the root.

Depending on the plant and the size (and a lot of other things frankly – there are a lot of different kinds of herbaceous perennials!) of the root, you can split into two or perhaps many more plants.

Hostas are a great candidate and something found in most gardens these days.  I’m planning to propagate one or two.  I’m going to dig around the outside of the portion I want to move, then I’m going to use my spade (the right tools make the job easier) to slice right through the root ball and use it to cleave off the piece I’ve dug around.

The root can be split into as many pieces as there are ‘eyes’. In the case of Hostas an ‘eye’ is a spot or node where a leaf stem grows up out of the root mass. They’re kinda nubby if the leaf is entirely absent;  or it can be planted as one large clump, as if you’d bought a 2 gallon plant at the nursery.

If the hosta is in full leaf when you transplant, trim off ⅓  leaving just  stems.  It isn’t pretty, but it’s very effective.  Large intact leaves would be a burden for a new transplant, but stems alone are capable of maintaining themselves and feeding the growing root during the last warm sunlit days…the perfect plant nursery.

If the hosta is already bare, be sure to get a good look at the roots and eyes so you don’t lose track of which end is up when you replant it. (It’s happened to the best of us  – pointy end up is a good rule of thumb if you find yourself looking at a lump of roots puzzlingly along the way).

Image: Dividing the Liriope – Diane Ott

Go Go Green Thumbs!

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