Time to Divide Bulbs and Perennials

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This time of year is the perfect time to divide perennials and plant bulbs. If has been at least three years or longer since you have divided, it’s time to do it again!

Dividing gives you free plants to expand you beds or gift to friends. Coneflowers, day lilies, and all kinds of spring/summer bulbs are ripe for division now.

Be sure to lift the perennials and bulbs with a shovel or garden fork. Yanking them up can destroy the roots and ruin any hopes for a successful division. On perennials, take care to tease apart the roots if possible or, with many plant types, cut with a sharp knife or spade. Replant with a good amount of compost.

Replant your bulbs in groups to show the flowers off better than one solitary bloom. Plant larger bulbs in groups of at least 3, smaller bulbs with 5 or more in a group. Grouping also makes planting easier as you only dig one hole large enough for all bulbs you are planting. Spacing between bulbs is up to you, but remember, the closer together you plant them, the sooner you’ll have to dig up and spread them out again to maintain good flowering.

Bulbs should be planted with the flat end down and pointy end up. A great rule of thumb is to plant them 3 times deeper than they are tall. That means that the smaller Grape Hyacinth, and species tulip bulbs will be planted in holes 3-4” deep. The larger daffodil bulbs should be planted in holes 5-6” deep.

The really large crinum bulb is an exception to this 3-times rule. Simply plant that bulb with the stem just above the ground.

When planting bulbs, it would be good to mix compost or fertilizer into the soil at the base of the bulbs and into the soil when you cover them. Just like the rest of your garden, 3-4″ of mulch is good for bulbs. Water the bulbs well after planting to settle the soil.

Want to read a great book on bulbs that work in our area and throughout the south? Pick up a copy of The Bulb Hunter by Chris Wiesinger and William Welch. You may recognize Dr. Welch as an accomplished gardening author and long-time horticulture professor at Texas A&M. I’ve been fortunate to have him come and speak a couple of times at our programs.

Chris Wiesinger was a student of his that went on to develop a business from bulbs that he found neglected, yet thriving at old homesites, cemeteries, and other forgotten locations. Don’t worry, he always got permission before taking a specimen.

Chris’s story is the first half of the book and a tremendous description of bulbs that grow well around hear is the second half of the book.

After your naturalized bulbs are done blooming, they need to be left with their foliage on. The foliage feeds the bulb to produce the next year’s flowers. The attention you can give it is deadheading (removing the spent flowers) to help the plant use its energy in flower production. Leaves can be removed when it starts to yellow.

And a last bonus, most spring blooming bulbs do not need to be watered or receive any care in the summer.

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