Divide and Conquer
Spring brings rain, warmer weather and lots of new growth in the garden. It is a fascinating time to be outdoors seeing everything emerging and springing up after the solemn landscape of winter. Some plants can spring up a little too robustly and end up taking over beds and covering up the beauty of other plants and flowers. So what should you do when a plant is literally ‘growing like a weed,’ divide and conquer.
Spring is typically the best time to divide up most plants. When the leaves are still developing and are not yet fully formed, so disturbing the root system will not disturb the delivery of food to the top of the plant as it would when it was a fully developed plant.
There are many reasons to divide up perennials, a plant that dies back to the earth in the winter and re-generates from its roots in the spring and summer months. The plant may have grown too big for the area and is shading out the other plants and flowers. Sometimes a perennial plant gets old and you will notice it dying out in the center creating ring effect; it will not bloom as robustly and needs to be split so that it can maintain a healthy root system. Sometimes you may wish to share a particular plant with other people or simply split a plant so that you can populate another part of the garden with it or fill in a bare area.
Whatever your reasons, spring is a great time to do divide and conquer, here are some tips on how to make an amicable split for both you and the plant:
- Use a good shovel and pair of secateurs, the better the tools, the easier the job always.
- Dig at the drip line of the plant, the roots usually go out as far as the drip line because that is where the extra water is available.
- You could dig up the whole plant or if you clearly see where the new offshoot plant begins, dig up that whole section instead.
- Limit the damage to the roots by limiting how much you cut out. Try to dig up the whole plant root and then divide.
- Sometimes you can use your hands to separate the roots depending on what type of plant it is. A woody crown root can be split using your hands or secateurs. Offset roots can be split by digging out the off shoot completely with a spade.
- Take care when re-planting; add fertilizer to the soil and water well and soon the plant will be happily re-established in its new spot in the garden.
Dividing up plants is a wonderful way to keep your perennials healthy, happy and looking great,