Managing perennials is one of the many ongoing chores of gardening. By their very nature, they keep going, which means after a period of time they can become overgrown. I try to keep on top of mine yearly, but sometimes they get away from me and something has to be done.
Dividing and Conquering
Dividing perennials is a dreaded chore for me simply because it’s physically demanding. It’s not easy digging up roots. This past year I tackled a bed of overgrown orange daylilies I had been putting off dividing for a few years.
The chore was past due. The plants started to look crowded and a little unhealthy. I spent a day pulling up clumps and carefully dividing the roots. There are several things you can do with the divisions from an overgrown bed:
- Toss them out in the yard waste bags. This is the easiest, of course.
- Add them to a compost pile, but I don’t keep one.
- Give them to friends and neighbors. One year I picked up some nice hosta divisions after a neighbor left some out on the curb for any takers.
- Create a new bed. This is what I did last year, creating a corner bed in a previously undeveloped area of the yard.
Other perennials that have benefited from the chore of dividing over the years include astilbe, hosta, columbine, and black-eyed Susan.
Hostas are my favorite plants to divide. They come up fairly easily, and I can almost always find someone to take the divisions, whether it’s a neighbor or a family member who also loves gardening.
Dividing and sharing hostas is how I’ve ended up with some more interesting hosta varieties, now favorites in my beds:
- Blue ‘Elegans’ with its large, striking leaves in this truly unique shade
- ‘Undulata’ with its uniquely wavy leaves
- The very upright ‘Lancifolia’
- A variety whose name I don’t know but which has pretty variegated leaves in yellow, green, and white.
Cutting Back and Conquering
For yearly upkeep of perennials in danger of overgrowing, I cut them back in the fall. It’s easier than dividing, and I feel less guilty when I simply toss the pruned off pieces into the yard waste bag.
Every fall I trim back several of my perennials, including the columbine, daylilies, hostas, and the peonies, but only after a hard frost.
Overgrown perennials can be the bane of the gardeners’ existence, which is why upkeep is so important. Face it sooner rather than later to avoid extra work.