Perennial plants need help to flourish

Published 12:01 am Monday, October 1, 2012

Many perennial plants thrive in the Miss-Lou. Daylilies, irises and creeping phlox are among the most popular. Easy to grow, they reward you with flowers for many months, indeed many years. But they do need help to flourish, and one of the most important ways to help is to divide them when they grow too big or die back in their centers.

For example, after approximately fours years, iris clumps will become crowded and need dividing and replanting. Lift the clump with garden forks (two people are useful for this task). Remove the non-productive rhizomes in the center, and carefully break apart the clump. Save the large new fans with foliage. You’ll probably have extra to share with friends and neighbors.

Cut into the soil with your fork (or spade if you don’t have a fork) about six to eight inches from the edge of the plant’s crown, then dig around and under the entire plant before lifting it carefully.

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Place the plant on a tarp and remove any dead, woody material.

Take new divisions from vigorously growing outer sections. Some plants fall apart easily like Shasta daisies and asters. Bearded irises or Dutch irises require a sharp knife.

Set divisions in a shady spot and protect the roots from drying out with a damp piece of burlap until replanting. It’s best to replant as soon as possible, but if you can’t, pot your divisions up in spare nursery pots and store them in a shady spot, keeping them well watered.

To replant, work in soil enrichments like compost or well-rotted manure, rake the bed level, and plant the divisions, leaving enough space for growth (exact spacing depends on the height and spread of the plant at maturity).

Water with a dose of water-soluble transplant fertilizer and watch them grow into healthy, productive plants.

If all this seems a bit confusing, come to a demonstration by Master Gardeners at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Meet at the corner of Jefferson Street Methodist Church. You will see how simple it really is.

Karen Dardick is known as The Rose Lady but also loves to garden with irises, daylilies and other perennials. She is a Master Gardener.