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Share the love: Division is good for perennials

Jessica Walliser
| Saturday, April 7, 2007

Question: Why is it important to divide perennials?

Answer: Dividing herbaceous perennials is necessary for several reasons. First and foremost, because of the tendency of some varieties to outgrow the space you've allotted them, you'll need to divide simply to keep them manageable. Secondly, division may be necessary to rejuvenate older plants. If a perennial, like a hosta or daylily, grows to a substantial size, the roots will begin to compete with each other for water and nutrients. When this happens, the center of the plant may die out and you'll note a reduction in the number and quality of the blooms.

The final reason to divide perennials: the opportunity to "share the love." Most gardeners enjoy passing treasured plants on to friends and, if you're lucky, one day you'll find yourself on the receiving end of such a deal. Some of my favorite garden plants were given to me by friends and colleagues. They started out as small divisions and have grown into beloved specimens, reminding me daily of the person from whom they came.

Q.: I bought an amaryllis at Christmas and would like to know what I need to do to get it to bloom again. The flowers died in January and right now the bulb has large green leaves, a few of which are yellowing and fading.

A.: Amaryllis are native to South America and are considered to be a tropical species. After the flower fades, cut off the flower stalk clear to the top of the bulb, being careful not to damage the emerging leaves. Water the plant weekly and keep it in a room between 70 and 75 degrees at moderate light levels until the danger of frost has passed (usually by the end of May). Move the plant, pot and all, out into the garden and sink it into the soil. Locate it in a shady area with moist, but well-drained, soil. Continue to water your amaryllis regularly and fertilize with a water-soluble organic fertilizer such as kelp emulsion once each month. Another option is to place the pot on the patio or under a shade tree for this period.

Dig up the pot and move it indoors in early September, before the danger of frost arrives. Here's the critical part: If you want the bulb to re-bloom, you'll need to store it for a minimum of eight to 10 weeks at around 55 degrees (attached garages usually fit the bill). During this time you should water it very sparingly, once a month at most. The leaves may or may not yellow and die off during this period; and whether or not this happens doesn't really matter. What matters is that the plant is kept at the right temperature for the correct amount of time. This is what stimulates re-bloom.

Once the eight to 10 weeks has passed, repot the bulb in fresh potting mix, move it back into a lighted area between 70 and 75 degrees and keep your fingers crossed for another terrific show!

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