Dig It! Time to Transplant Your Perennials

Reader Contribution by Corinne Gompf and Heritage Harvest Farm
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As the growing season is coming to a close, most gardeners can exhale a sigh of relief. The majority of the work is done, and it’s time for a much needed break. Or is it? Now, and I mean now, is the perfect time to get into the garden and dig up, divide, and transplant your perennials.

I know that most of the focus of Mother Earth News is toward edible plants, which have rightly earned their priority in the garden. But let’s not forget the role flowering nonedibles play. Feeding bees and hummingbirds, adding value to your home, and simply beautifying the landscape, perennial flowers are a great addition to our home gardens. They’re easy to grow, once established, and can be dug up in the early fall, divided, and relocated to other parts of your property to give you more plants for free.

Perennials to Divide Now

Peonies: Spring flowering peonies are an old-fashioned favorite of mine. I love the bright pink, red, and even white peonies, and their fragrance it beyond compare. They can live a very, very long time (In fact, your peonies will probably outlive us all!). Peonies make wonderful cut flowers, and last a long time in a vase.

To divide, simply grab your shovel and dig all around the roots. You’ll want as much of the roots as you can, as they are quite hefty because they store a lot of water. Divisions will need to have a minimum of three eyes (little pinkish sprouts). Be sure to relocate your peonies in full sun for the best blooms. Also, peonies do not want to be buried deep in the soil. Just barely cover your roots and add a nice layer of mulch or straw for the winter. Once you see growth in the spring, remove most of the mulch and enjoy.

Daylilies: Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned ditch lily? The mid-summer burst of orange is a herald that summer is official here. Easy to grow, and edible, every homestead should have daylilies to grace the fence row or flower bed.

To divide, lift roots and bulbs in a large clump. You can carefully separate with your fingers or your shovel. Daylilies thrive in full or partial sun, and any soil should work (I mean, they grow in ditches, for Pete’s sake!). Just plop your division the ground, water, and voila!, you’ll have lilies next summer.

Coreopsis: Tickseed is a great flower for a country garden. With so many colors available now, you can customize your selections to perfectly complement your home. I have yellow coreopsis, and love when it blooms in the summer, attracting bees and hummingbirds (Plus, coreopsis has the word “oreo,” so of course they have to be one of my favorites!)

To divide, dig up the entire plant. With your shovel or a knife (my favorite garden tool is a steak knife I bought at Dollar General, like, 15 years ago.), cut through the roots to separate the original plants. I don’t like to make more than three new plants at a time. Plant in full sun.

Iris: Let me just tell you, I heart irises! I have a few purple irises from my childhood home that I dug up and planted at my first home. When Matt and I moved to our property in Morrow County, I, again, dug them up and brought them with me.

Iris benefits from lifting every few years to check for worms (likely iris borers) on the rhizomes and divide if they’re getting a bit crowded. This helps with better blooming, too.

To divide, I dig around the rhizomes and pull up as much as I can, separating them with my hands. If the irises aren’t wormy, I just plant some around the flowerbeds and mulch. This may affect the blooming for the first year after transplanting, but by the second year, you should see your irises in full glory.

These are just a few perennials that you can transplant, but I know there are hundreds of plants I could write about. But the good folks in charge prefer I keep my posts to 500 or so words. Actually, these are the plants that I divided this morning before a mild case of sunburn set in. So, if you’ve got a transplanting tip or a favorite perennial to brag about, I’d love to read it in a comment below.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.


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