We know dividing perennials is a good thing to do because it helps rejuvenate tired old plants (see “How to Divide Perennials” opposite).
But what is a gardener to do with all of those extra plants? Plant swaps, of course, are a great way to trade your extra divisions and seedlings with other gardeners.
But that’s not the only option. Here are five great ways to put those extra perennials to good use.
1 SHARE WITH FRIENDS
Go ahead and plan that plant swap with a group of your green-hearted friends.
Begin with a meet-and-greet to check out each other’s plants and include a follow-up session with a question-and-answer period on plant care. Share only healthy, disease-free plants, including cuttings as well as divisions. Consider also including seeds, containers and houseplants in the swap mix. And make sure all the plants are properly labeled with their names.
Think about adding a fundraising element for a garden club or botanical garden by charging an admittance fee. Plant swaps can have a different theme from year to year (perennials, native plants, succulents) to make it more interesting.
It’s fun to keep track of all the plants you’ve been given by friends over the years. So start keeping a list of when you got each plant, who gave it to you and where you put it in the garden.
2 HOST A PLANT SALE
Make an annual spring plant sale a neighborhood tradition. Stage the sale in your front yard or driveway or in the garage if weather will be an issue. Be sure you know what you are selling and that all plants are properly labeled. You may want to divide them into sun- and shade-lovers to help customers find what they are looking for. If you have hundreds of plants to sell and you don’t want to write a price on each plant, use a color code system with stickers to indicate prices. Be sure to post the details of the sale on social media and on online classified sites like Craigslist. Check with local schools, community gardens or garden clubs to see if they could use any extra plants that may be left over.
3 FILL IN GAPS
It’s a good idea to use some of your divisions to fill in gaps in your garden: You know, those spots that seem to appear in the spring where something has finally petered out. Not only can filling in those holes with divisions provide some much-needed repetition in the garden, it’s also easy on the pocketbook. And if you have a perennial that’s doing so well it needs dividing, you know it will likely grow well elsewhere in your garden. Try to transplant your divisions before the hot temperatures arrive so your plants will be stronger and grow larger in the first season. Add a handful of compost in the hole as you plant each division.
Use the repeated clumps of plants to pull the eye through the garden. Keep in mind that leaves outlast flowers so select perennials that have handsome foliage all season long. Think of how bearded iris foliage continues to provide a spiky accent to beds and borders long after the blossoms have faded. Foliage filler plants like feathery amsonia can be more functional than flowery fillers whose attraction is fleeting. Since the foliage will be in the garden for the entire season, use it to create form, texture and structure in your beds.
4 CREATE AN ENTIRELY NEW GARDEN
Put those extra plants to work by planting a garden where before there was none. As a general rule, divide fall-blooming perennials in spring and spring-and summer-blooming perennials in fall. If you’re not ready to commit to a new garden at this time, you can always create a nursery bed to hold the plants until you are ready to place them in the landscape. Before you start digging a new bed, always call the local utility companies and get your property marked.
Use newspaper or cardboard weighted down with mulch to get rid of existing lawn. And be sure to place the plants where you want them in the ground first before digging and planting to get the spacing just right. Use the mature parent plant as a guide for spacing and plant the new division at the same depth. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of wood mulch around the plants to protect the roots through winter. Water well.
5 GROW DIVISIONS IN CONTAINERS
Attractive containers planted up with perennials are mobile pots of color at the ready. When it comes to perennials in containers, the rule of thumb is the bigger the pot, the better. That’s because most perennials have large root systems that require more space than most annuals. When placed directly in beds and borders, containers can provide a much-needed architectural element to the garden. Or, maybe you have an area that could use some midsummer color. You can fix that with a container filled with coneflowers.
Save yourself some grief and decide in advance where you want them placed before planting them up. Remember that compact, mounding or clumping plants typically grow better in containers than spreading ones. Coral bells, sedums and hostas are all good choices. Spreading plants like daylilies and coreopsis tend to outgrow their containers and require transplanting sooner than the clumping types. Some perennials like winecup, ice plant and hardy geranium make good spillers in mixed containers, so save some money next spring and use divisions from your garden.
If you are planning on overwintering your container outdoors or in an unheated garage, select plants that are very hardy for your area to increase the chances of overwintering successfully. Plants that are one or two zones hardier than your USDA hardiness zone should be fine. ■