Winter Perennial Care
How to Keep Perennial Plants From Taking over Your Garden
Perennial plants are plants that live for at least 2 consecutive years. Most of them bloom during the spring, summer or fall, die back in the winter, and return the following growing season. They vary in growth rates. Some plants grow slowly and take many years to become established, while others grow so quickly that they can become invasive. Use these tips to keep perennials from overtaking your garden.
Understand the concept of plant division.Dividing perennials means splitting 1 large plant into several smaller plants. Plant division helps keep perennials healthy, promotes blooming and may extend the life of some plants. In the case of plants that are overtaking a garden, dividing a perennial will reduce the plant's size and keep it from crowding out other plants.
Determine when to divide your perennials.Most perennials should be divided in the spring when new growth is less than 4 inches (10.16 cm) high. During the spring, the cool weather and moist soil keep root systems from drying out after being separated and replanted. Perennials divided during the spring have a growing season to recover from the stress caused by division, and have time to develop a strong root system to survive the winter.
- Divide oriental poppies, Siberian iris and peonies in the fall.
- Avoid dividing perennials during the summer, with the exception of the bearded iris, which can withstand the summer heat during plant division. Tough perennials like daylilies and hostas may be divided any time.
Dig up the perennials root system.Using a shovel, dig a hole around the root system of the plant. Gently pull on the plant to remove the root system from the soil, and lay the plant on a tarp.
Evaluate which division method to use.There are 2 ways of dividing perennials: cut them apart or pull them apart. To determine which method to use, examine the root system of the perennial. Dense, tough roots will need to be cut apart with a sharp tool, while fibrous, tangled roots can be pulled apart by hand.
Divide the perennial.If you need to cut the perennial apart, use a sharp knife or spade to slice the plant's roots. If you need to pull the perennial apart, gently untangle the roots and pull them apart using your hands.
- Ensure each new division has 3 to 5 new growth shoots and healthy roots.
Plant the divided perennial.To keep the perennial from overtaking your garden, replant 1 small division. Plant the division at the same depth as the old plant and water after planting. Keep the soil moist for a few weeks while new roots become established.
Understand the concept of deadheading.Deadheading perennials is removing spent or faded blooms from the plant. Deadheading allows plants to focus their energy on blooming, rather than going to seed. Without deadheading, some self-seeding perennials will drop seeds in the soil, which may emerge the following growing season as new plants. To keep perennials from overtaking your garden, deadhead blooms to keep the plants from producing seeds.
Evaluate whether your perennial self-seeds.Not all perennials self-seed. Consult a garden catalog or online perennial resource to determine whether your plants will go to seed if not deadheaded. A few common perennials that self-seed include: yarrow, bugleweed, purple coneflower, orange coneflower, sweet violet, bishop's goutweed, lady's mantle, aster, columbine and maiden pink.
Deadhead perennials.Remove spent blooms by pinching them off with your thumb and forefinger, or clipping them with shears.
Avoid Invasive Perennials
Research which perennials are invasive in your area.Invasive perennials spread rapidly and are difficult to control. They may spread by seeds or by roots. Because the growth patterns of perennials depend on factors like temperature, soil and sunlight, perennials may be considered invasive in some geographic areas, but not in others. Check with your local garden center, extension office or the United States National Arboretum website for a list of invasive perennials in your area.
- Put together a list of local invasive perennials so you avoid planting them in the future. A few perennials that are considered invasive in some geographic regions include: purple loosestrife, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, butterfly bush and water hyacinth.
Remove invasive perennials in your garden.If you have invasive perennials in your garden, remove them immediately. Dig out the entire root system and dispose of the plant. If a plant spreads by seeds, an invasive plant in your garden could affect neighboring gardens and habitats.
QuestionHow do I get rid of columbine that is spreading into unwanted areas of my garden?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerColumbine are prolific re-seeders. You should pull up the seedlings as soon as they are recognizable and prevent the mature plants from setting seed by removing the flowers as soon as they begin to fade.Thanks!
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