Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2003
Regional Report

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Alstroemerias are initially expensive, but they propagate vigorously and are easy to divide.

Plant Long-Term Garden Color

Lazy gardeners -- those of us who want the most garden color year-round with the least amount of work -- have two ways to go. Annuals give us a short-term fix of instant color. Perennials give us immediate color if we purchase gallon-size blooming plants, but they are more valuable as long-term multipliers with great, long-lasting color.

Now is the time to plant both spring and summer bloomers. Most perennials can be treated as annuals, and you can remove them from the garden after they finish blooming. But with some trimming, plants will rebloom later in the season. With nurturing over the winter, they'll flourish for years.

Perennials are tenacious growers. Once their root systems are well developed, they'll multiply, sometimes more energetically than you may prefer. After three or four years, most should be divided and replanted to revitalize their blooming. This is when you beg your friends to take some of the offspring of the very plants you initially struggled to find. Fortunately, there always seem to be garden clubs or benefit sales more than pleased to take these off your hands, so they never go to waste.

Deciding where in the garden to place these vigorous growers is important, especially if you plan to let them grow unchecked for quite a few years. I loved my pink achillea until I tried to move it. In three years, one little plant from a 2-inch pot had become a 3-foot-round clump with roots 1 foot deep and spreading 2 feet wide. And this was in hard, clay soil! Like mint, this achillea became a container-only plant for me, so I could enjoy it without it overwhelming the allotted space.

Perennials come in a wide array of foliage and flower colors, and they vary in bloom time from early spring through late fall. They offer a huge variety of options for combining colors and textures. Perhaps you have been growing and loving perennials all this time, but haven't known it!

Divide and Transplant in Fall
Most perennials and some annuals can be divided and replanted. These include acanthus, agapanthus, alstroemeria, Japanese anemone, astilbe, bergenia, calendulas, evergreen candytuft, columbine, coreopsis, michaelmas and Shasta daisies, daylilies, delphiniums, dianthus, bleeding hearts (dicentra), dusty miller, foxgloves, heliopsis, hellebores, coralbells (heuchera), hollyhocks, bearded iris, phlox, rudbeckias, statice, stokesia, veronica, and yarrow.

Use a spade or sharp knife to separate the large clumps, or gently pull apart individual plants after loosening the clump from its surrounding soil. Discard the old, unproductive sections. Trim the foliage of young growth to 4 to 6 inches. Dig in compost, replant, and water in well.

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