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Sharing Perennials

Spring is the season to work in the garden, but summer is the season to just have some fun. Garden picnics and parties, fresh-cut flowers to enjoy every day, picking ripe red tomatoes for dinner, and sitting outside under a shade tree after a long day watching my kids play make all the long work days of spring worthwhile.

What else makes gardening so fun? I think the main reason is digging in the soil and watching things grow and change. But sharing your garden gifts makes summer extra special.

It’s true that most of our garden chores are completed in the spring months, but just because it’s hot doesn’t mean it’s time to give up completely. You can dig and plant all summer long with great success.

This is especially true for varieties of plants that seem to thrive the hotter and drier it gets. Ornamental grasses, crape myrtles, canna lilies, irises, daylilies, and sedums don’t seem to care how hot it is and establish very quickly with just a little help from regular watering.

Live forever sedums
The perennial sedums are an excellent example. I grew up calling the showy sedum by its common name—live forever. Sedum spectabile, which grew all along the side of our house, was indeed almost impossible to kill.

The most widely recognized sedum is the tall showy sedum, with the most popular variety being Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy.’ Showy sedums grow 12-24 inches tall, depending on variety, and the flowers are very similar, ranging from light pink to bronze. As the flowers emerge they are green and remind me of broccoli. Showy sedum grows in a clump form and can be planted singly or in a group.

Not as easily recognizable as showy sedum, the creeping forms are also widely available, and are popular ground covers and rock garden additions. The creeping forms are considered much more aggressive and can fill in an area easily with just a few plants in one season.

Sedums prefer to grow in full sun but will tolerate part shade. The taller varieties tend to flop in the garden without enough sun. If this has happened to yours, cut them back halfway in late May or early June, before flower buds are developed, to promote stronger, shorter branching.

This tough group of plants has been around forever and will certainly continue to be planted forever. Almost as easy to propagate as they are to grow, many people have received their starter plants from a friend’s or relative’s gardens, and in turn grow and share them with more friends and relatives.

Dazzling daylilies
Another perennial that is commonly shared is the daylily. The modern versions most of us are familiar with are the result of extensive hybridization. The result is that the parent species or older varieties are becoming harder and harder to find. The positive benefit of this work, though, has brought us almost any flower size and color we want on a daylily, including the popular Stella d’Oro.

This compact daylily is known as much for its season-long bloom and solid yellow flowers as it is for its size and clean foliage. The main bloom season for any daylily is June, and even the perpetual bloomers will look their best at this time. I have found that regular fertilization is necessary for perpetual bloomers to continue to set flower buds, allowing them to bloom all summer. Having successfully bumped the huge group of fabulous irises out of the top slot, Stella d’Oro now holds the title of the most widely planted perennial today.

I believe that it is not just the flower or look of these plants that has made them so popular. It is their ability to survive being dug from one yard, replanted in another or simply planted from their nursery pots in the heat of summer, and not only survive but thrive. Sedums, daylilies, and irises can certainly claim top honors here. They also own the title of the most shared plants between gardeners today. I can’t imagine my garden without a few of all three. After all, what kind of party host would I be if everyone didn’t go home with a new plant?

How & When to Divide Perennials
Divide most perennials in spring as new growth starts.

Exceptions are:
Iris/Peony: September
Tubers/Bulbs: dormant season

For perennial clumps, it is best to completely dig up the clump. Take a sharp spade or serrated kitchen knife and split the clump into pieces. Then share by potting the pieces or having the friend plant promptly; you can also spread out the pieces in your garden to cover a wider area. Try to divide so that the perennial fans or pieces are left in distinct parts.

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