The Q&A Archives: DIVISION


Answer: Most perennials are clumping - that's one of the ways they multiply - so division is necessary to keep them looking neat and attractive. If they are not divided periodically, the roots compete for moisture and nutrients and the plants can eventually stop flowering. However, there are some perennials considered low-maintenance because they do not require division (although you certainly may, if you wish). Here are a few:
Armeria (Sea Thrift)
USDA Zones 4 - 9
Blooms: Spring to Early summer
Colors: Pink, rose, lilac, red or white
The foliage resembles tufts of grass. The flowers shoot up on stems and resemble small alium clusters. If deadheaded, you will usually get a repeat bloom and the whole plant can be refreshed by cutting down to basal growth, but it's not required. Sweet looking plants, they are actually tough customers, able to grow in rocky soil and even in high winds and sea spray.

Chelone lyonii (Turtlehead)
USDA Zones 2 - 9
Blooms: Late summer to late fall
Colors: Pink, white or red
Chelone can survive almost anything. They do need extra moisture if planted in hot sun, but otherwise are undemanding. Attractive seedheads mean deadheading is not necessary. Plants attain full size within 3-4 years and are long-lived.

Echinops ritro (Globe Thistle)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Early summer to Early Fall
Colors: Blue or white
Here is one thistle that is not weedy or invasive. Echinops don't require dividing, because with its long tap root, it doesn't like to be disturbed. It appears to bloom forever, because the seed head is as attractive as the bloom. Which means there is no need to deadhead. Echinops even does well in poor, dry soil.

USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Generally mid-Summer
Colors: Purples or white
Hostas are extremely low care perennials. If the deer and slugs didn't love them so much, they'd be almost perfect. Since they do most of their growing early in the season, a few applications of a systemic deer deterrent can greatly lessen the deer damage and the thicker leaved varieties are less attractive to slugs. Most do best in partial shade, but the golden leaf varieties can handle a good deal of sun.

Iris siberica (Siberian Iris)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Late spring
Colors: Blues, purples or white
One of the most attractive and adaptable of the irises. Siberian Iris have the typical iris leaf blades, but unlike many of their cousins, Siberian Iris leaves don't flop or scorch after blooming. The plants remain a contrasting form in the garden long after the blooms have faded. They can spread quickly in moist conditions and will require division when they get crowded. In warmer zones they may rebloom in the fall.

Liatris spicata (Blazing Star)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Mid-summer through fall
Colors: Purples or white
Although native to marshy areas, Liatris is surprisingly drought tolerant and accepting of all types of soil. It is a tireless bloomer and the spiky flowers and grassy foliage add definite textural interest to the garden. To avoid staking, select a compact or low growing variety.

Paeonia (Peony)
USDA Zones 2 - 9
Blooms: Late spring / Early summer
Colors: Pinks, white, reds or yellow
This favorite old-fashioned perennial looks does best if left alone. The heavy double blossoms will may require some staking, if they don't have other plants to lean on, but the single flowered varieties are usually able to stand tall on their own. The bushy foliage looks attractive all season. Peonies prefer to stay put and don't adjust quickly to being divided.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Mid-summer to Fall
Colors: Blue
Give Russian Sage good drainage and full sun and you'll be rewarded with a haze of blue that gets brighter and more vivid as the blossoms open. The plants gets woody stems, but can die back to the ground in colder climates. Pruning down to 8 - 10 inches in early spring encourages new growth and profuse blooms. Perovskia has very few pest problem. Even deer don't like it. You won't need to divide your Russian Sage, but you will get a few welcome volunteers.

Thalictrum aquilegifolium (Meadow Rue)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Late spring
Colors: Pink, lavender or white
The species name aquilegifolium refers to the Columbine like ferny, foliage. Meadow Rue is one of the last plants up in the spring, but it shoots up and, all of a sudden, it's in bloom. The flowers are actually fuzzy puffs with no petals. There is only one bloom, but it lasts several weeks and remains attractive as it ages. The foliage stays attractive and it rarely needs dividing.

Tiarella cordifolia (Allegheny Foam flower)
USDA Zones 3 - 9
Blooms: Late spring / Early summer
Colors: White or pink
Tiarella cordifolia spreads rapidly, but accommodates other plants by going around them. It makes an ideal ground cover, giving four seasons of interest where the leaves are still visible above snow cover. Fuzzy spikes of flowers shoot out above the maple shaped leaves. The velvety leaves remain attractive all season. T. cordifolia will take care of itself if planted in a shady or woodland setting.

Hope some of these suggestions appeal to you!

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