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by Beth Cook, Mammoth Cave Transplants
Perennials grow fuller and more beautiful with each passing year. Some multiply more rapidly than others and eventually they outgrow their allotted space. They begin to become overcrowded can cause a decline in the plant. This is the reason we need to divide and separate to allow sufficient growth and for the plant to prosper in our gardens.
Perennials should be cut to within a half-inch to an inch of the ground, the bed raked of all debris, and then to cover them with mulch to be protected during the winter. If crowding is visible in your perennials use that old rule-of-thumb: lift and divide. Most gardeners are hesitant to divide because they think “more is better” which is far from the truth. Crowding equates to smaller and smaller plants and flowers. On average it’s best to divide every three years, but for the more rapid growing perennials, it can be done sooner. It is best to be done on a case by case basis when you start noticing a plant's decline. Watch for less blooms and spindly stems.
Some perennials don’t do well when they are divided. These include: Baptisia,Bleeding heart (Dicentra), Butterfly weed (Asclepias), Christmas rose (Helleborus), Gas plant (Dictamnus), Lavender (Lavandula),Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale).
Tall grasses may also be cut back now or, if you wish and want to provide a habitat and food for wildlife, left until spring; just make sure to cut them back in the spring before any new growth has started, otherwise you’ll be cutting off new green growth in the process and no one want square tips on their grasses.
Remember when you are dividing your perennials and replanting them, don’t forget to “pass along” your divisions to friends, or swap them for other plants.
October's the month
When the smallest breeze
Gives us a shower
Of autumn leaves.
Bonfires and pumpkins,
Leaves sailing down --
October is red
And golden and brown.