What is Herbaceous Perennials?

Herbaceous perennials provide beautiful color and are easy to care for and to propagate. “Herbaceous perennial” means that these are non-woody plants whose tops die down each winter. The plants come back each year from their root system. They reproduce themselves either by sexual propagation as seeds or by asexual or vegetative propagation with runners, layering, or offshoots. Dividing an herbaceous perennial is a method of vegetative or asexual propagation that is an easy and quick way to produce new plants or reduce over-crowding.

Some popular herbaceous perennials that are easily divided, even while actively growing, include daylily, iris, hosta, black-eyed Susan, sedum, ginger, astilbe, bergenia, chrysanthemum, lily-of-the-valley, liriope, poppy, water lily, ornamental grass, and many others.

Perennials grow from a crown, tuber, or rhizome (i.e. iris). Whether they have a crown or a rhizome, they expand outward as they age. The centers often become empty, resulting in a “doughnut” of growth with nothing in the center of the plant except, maybe, weeds.

Herbaceous perennials grow at different rates. Some plants need dividing more often than others. On average, dividing every four years is recommended unless you want to reproduce more plants faster. A plant is shocked anytime it’s lifted from the ground and its roots and stems are cut. The plant’s growth cycle slows dramatically as it uses its strength to recover from the shock. An old saying goes, “After you divide a perennial, the first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, and the third year it leaps.” Application varies from species to species, but generally it is an accurate statement.

The ideal time to do a division is in the fall or early spring when the plant is dormant and less subject to shock. However, some very tough ones such as liriope, hosta, and daylily will tolerate being divided even when actively growing. They will wilt and look rather beaten afterwards, but they will recover when properly cared for.

Preparing a New Home for the New Plants

When preparing a new site for your newly-divided plants, always take the time and effort to improve the soil by adding compost, peat moss, or composted horse or cow manure prior to planting. The time spent improving the soil will pay off in the long run by promoting good root growth. You’ll see the results in much healthier plants with vigorous flowering. Test your garden soil if you haven’t done so in the past three years. Instructions on having a soil test done by a lab are available on the HGIC website.

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DALY: Use care when planting around septic drainfields  — Gwinnettdailypost.com
Shallow rooted annual and perennial herbaceous plants can be planted closer to the drain fields since they do not have invasive roots. Turfgrass can be grown over the drain field and is beneficial since it helps hold the soil in place.

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