In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
When the flowers finish, it's time to divide daylilies.
Mid to late September is the line of demarcation for most of us in the southern coast region. Though the calendar says "fall," temperatures are still warm and hurricanes still threaten. But something in the air has changed. It's time to take stock, and get busy with fall garden chores.
Blooming Now, Reseeding Later
Ruellia (Mexican petunia or dooryard plant as I learned it in New Orleans) is much maligned in some circles. They say it spreads too fast and too far, and the flowers don't last but a day. True, but the cool blues and pastel pinks are a reliable standard in many gardens. Do keep an eye on the plants because as soon as they slow down flowering, they'll spread. If you don't want that, pull up the offending sprouts. Rudbeckias, especially Rudbeckia hirta, flowers now and reseeds at the same time. If you've got enough, remove the dead flowers to control them.
Most iris and daylilies grow thick in just a few years, then the flowers get fewer and farther between. Sometimes one especially vigorous one will actually take over a bed you planted in mixed colors, so all the iris are white or all the daylilies are orange. The answer is to dig up and divide the plants, then replant or pot up for later sharing.
Iris and daylilies respond best to a total approach: dig up whole clumps with a fork or shovel (depending on soil conditions), then cut clumps apart with a sharp knife, pruning shears, or a cane knife (you may need to use a shovel with large daylily clumps). Get some leaves, a piece of the crown, and some roots to form each new clump. Trim off about half the height of each leaf to form a fan shape to decrease transplant shock and make the plants easier to handle.
Do As I Say
But not as I've done, please! Some of my best iris and daylilies sat for six months in a bushel basket before I got around to planting them. They survived, but took two years to flower again. Work up the bed or mix up some potting soil with bark and a bit of compost and replant the fans right away.
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