Iris have been especially pretty this spring. After being hit with hail the rhizomes look to be healthy. I like to cut or break off all the flower stalks so they will not use energy to make seeds. The clumps can now be divided if you have space for more. I usually wait until late June or early July and cut off at least half of the fans so the roots will not be too stressed in getting enough water.

          Dead heading is a word you will see quite often now. It means removing the spent blooms so the plant will not use up its energy to make seeds. If you want your plants to spread, wait until the seeds mature, and then the wind and water will spread them for you. My cone flowers are a good example of this. I now have a large area of those perennials.  Since they were cross pollinated there is a big variety of bloom shapes, colors, double, and single ones. They are perennials so you can choose your favorites to keep. When dead heading, I use scissors to cut the stems very close to the main stems and am able to protect the leaves.

          Usually I divide my plants in the fall after the first hard frost as this will still give the roots time to get established before the ground freezes. I dig the entire clump and then cut or saw the roots into pieces. The center of big clumps is quite often dead so I discard that part. For many plants spring is the best time to divide. Just as the plants are coming up it is easy to see parts of a clump that can be removed. This leaves the original plant in place with more room and food for blooming. Hostas are a good example of this. Divisions are very easy to see.

          If it is an annual you are wanting to maintain or to move, you need to watch the seed pod development closely. There are not too many days after the pods dry before they split and scatter their seeds.  If you watch closely, carry a pair of scissors, a pen, and a small container, you can get the seeds at their prime. I save small jars or envelopes and carry them with me in the fall.

          What about this hail? Some plants were in bloom and you want those particular seeds for next year. Unless the plant is a total ruin, save as much green as you can. Just wait a few days to see how much stays alive. Look for green. My Hostas were hurt the worst. Some leaves were completely torn off, others bent. If just a stalk is there I save it. The green will continue to manufacture food for next year.  Half leaves can do the same.  Unless you are sure that the plant will revive this year, save as much as you can. Next year plants may be smaller and not bloom as well, but will be saved to recuperate next spring.

          If the pods begin to look dry and you want to be sure to save the seeds, put them on top of something. I like old towels that will catch the first seeds. When that happens they can be put in containers. I like to leave the tops off so maturing can continue without danger of too much moisture. When I am sure they are dry I can put them in envelopes with a name and date.

          Bulbs you planted in the fall and bloom early will spend a lot of energy making seeds unless you cut the heads off. If you allow the flower to make seeds the bulb will not be very big for the next spring. Just cut the heads off as the stems are green and will continue to make food like the leaves. Keep the plants alive as long as possible as they are increasing the size of the bulb. When the foliage is brown you can dig them up and divide and/or transplant.

Copyright 2016