That pretty little pot of lamb's ears ( Stachys byzantina ) in two years has spread to surround the yarrow ( Achillea millefolium ) and the Knockout rose bush. I love their soft leaves and even the obscure tiny yellow blossoms. But I did not intend to have a lamb's ear bed. It is supposed to be a perennial bed with a cottage garden look.
What can I do to reclaim my garden? I want to keep some of the lamb's ears while making room for new perennials and annuals I discover for next spring's planning season.
The first step is to dig up the lamb's ear clumps (or other perennials you want to divide). Make sure the target plant has been well-watered a few days before you dig them up. Try to dig on a cool, cloudy day.
Examine the clump carefully. Are there any signs of disease? If so, it is probably best to discard this plant and choose another.
Is the middle of the clump growing poorly? If so, then only the outer portions should be kept for replanting or sharing.
Dividing the plants can be as simple as just pulling apart the clump with your hands into two or more new plants. Use caution with dividing the clumps: pulling it into too many small pieces will make for a small show in the spring.
If the clump is too tight for hand-pulling, a small sharp knife or a sharp-edged spade may be used.
Before replanting, the original hole needs to be filled with a mixture of topsoil, organic matter and a handful of fertilizer higher in phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen.
A section of the clump can be placed in the newly prepared hole and watered well. The remaining pieces of the clump can be placed in new spots or shared with friends.
Timing the Attack
All these tasks must be done before the ground freezes--for the majority of the country, by mid-November.
Plants that bloom in the spring or summer should be divided in the fall. However, in areas where the winter temperatures drop to -20 o F or colder, it is best to divide the plants in the spring. For very early spring-blooming perennials, wait until they finish flowering then divide. Fall blooming plants also need to be divided in the spring.
If you are planning a new flower bed, look at the ones you already have and see what needs to be divided. This will help with continuity throughout your yard for a more flowing look, plus it is a very economical way to beautify your landscape.
Enlist More Troops
To turn this important garden task in to play, invite some of your friends to a plant swapping party. It's a fun and inexpensive way to expand and refresh your garden while gathering with friends and neighbors. So, don't be afraid to divide and conquer (or share)!