10810Along with all the bare root fruit trees, roses and cane berries, nurseries also stock bare root perennials like strawberries, asparagus, horseradish and rhubarb. They are so easy to plant while dormant. They recover from transplant through spring, and by summer, should be growing as if they had always been there. Although, if they had always been there, they might be crowded by now.

Yes, many but not all perennials eventually get crowded. Strawberries spread by runners, so are easily plucked and transplanted to avoid overcrowding, as well as to propagate more productive plants. Asparagus are variable, so may not get crowded for decades. Horseradish and rhubarb may not mind getting crowded, but could be more productive if individual plants have their space.

For example, crowded horseradish plants produce many small roots. If dug, split apart, and replanted with more space between individual plants, the individual roots get much larger. Separating the roots, which is known as ‘division’, also produces many more new plants. Mature rhubarb plants may not mind being crowded, but are often divided simply to propagate new productive plants.

Division of these sorts of perennials is typically done while they are dormant through winter. If that sounds familiar, it because it is the same reason why these sorts of perennials are available as bare root stock. They get processed while they are unaware of what is happening, and wake up in their new and better situations. Many defoliate while dormant. However, most are evergreen.

Ornamental perennials like lily-of-the-Nile, African iris, New Zealand flax, society garlic, torch lily, lily turf and acorus grass are all good candidates for division if and when they become overgrown. So are most aloes, some terrestrial yuccas, several ferns and some of the more resilient clumping grasses. Agave pups can be dangerous, but really should not be allowed to get too crowded.

Division might be as simple as taking a few pups or sideshoots from a large clumping plant, or as involved as digging an entire large plant to divide each individual shoot. More often, large plants get dug and split into a few smaller clumps of many shoots. New plants should be groomed of deteriorating foliage. The long leaves of New Zealand flax should be cut in half to avoid desiccation.

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5 thoughts on “Perennials Can Divide And Conquer

    1. I think that horseradish should have been divided already. We do ours in autumn because they start to grow over winter. I do not like to dig them once they get new foliage on them, but we usually do so anyway, just because they start to grow before we divide them. I do not know what the schedule is there. If they are still bare, they probably would not mind being divided. They should be watered in if the weather is warm and dry. Horseradish probably grows better there. It is not even recommended for our mild climate.
      Agave is divided very carefully! Well, you probably know that. Otherwise, they are very easy to divide. The pups only need to be pried off of the main plant. If they are at the end of a long stolon, they can be planted directly. If they tear off close to the base of the plant, they should probably be left out for a while so that the wound can dry a bit before planting again. They really do not need much roots. Lower leaves will dry and curl back, but they can get cut off later. They divide as easily as aloes do, so the only difficulty is handling them.

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