Peonies are a favorite perennial of gardeners because of their beauty and low maintenance. In Kansas, peonies provide a beautiful display of flowers each spring around Memorial Day. Though peonies can be left in place indefinitely, many gardeners wish to increase their plantings and use a process known as division to accomplish this. Keep in mind, however, that peonies often take about three years to return to full bloom and size after division.
Fall is the traditional time to divide these plants. Peonies are essentially dormant by mid-August even though the foliage is still green. The first step in division is to remove the foliage. Then dig out the entire plant. Shake and wash off as much soil as possible so that the pink buds or “eyes” are visible. Peony roots are tough, and a sharp knife is needed to cut the roots into separate pieces. Make sure each division has three to four buds. Make sure the location chosen for planting receives at least a half-day of full sun. However, the more sun, the better. Space the plants so that there is at least 2 feet between dwarf types and 4 feet between the standard types.
Follow the same rules for planting these divisions as you do for new plants. Make sure the pink buds are about 1 inch below the soil surface. If they are set more than 2 inches deep, flowering may be delayed or completely prevented. As you set the plants, firm soil often as it is added around the plant. If the soil is not firmed, it can settle and pull the plant down with it. Water in well after planting and water as necessary through the fall and winter to keep the soil moist.
It is often a good idea to add mulch to the new planting to protect it from heaving. The alternate freezing and thawing that commonly occurs during Kansas winters can “heave” weakly rooted plants out of the ground. Add a mulch of straw, leaves, compost or other material after the soil freezes. Remember, it is not the cold that harms these plants but the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil.
If you want to sit in your garden and not only enjoy the sites, but also the smells consider planting some fragrant flowers. Floral fragrance effects our emotions and memories in positive ways. To add some wonderful smells to your garden, choose roses, irises, dianthus, honeysuckles, or oriental lilies. Learn more here: https://tinyurl.com/y4b8h2jc
This winter seems like it will never end. So in the meantime here is a fun activity you can do indoors to have some pretty blooms before spring fully arrives.
Stems of a number of woody plants can be forced into bloom for indoor display. Of course, some are easier to force than others. Three of the easiest are forsythia, pussy willow, and flowering quince. These plants have now gone through enough cold weather to satisfy their chilling requirement and should bloom if given the right conditions.
Choose a day that is above freezing for collecting branches for blooming. Keep the stem length to 3 feet or less. As you cut, place the stems in a bucket of water. Once you have the number of branches you want, bring them into the house and soak them in warm water for several hours — a bathtub works well for this. This ensures that the stems and buds are fully hydrated. Next, place them in a container that has a warm, preservative solution and place them in an environment with high humidity and plenty of light.
Make your preservative solution by dissolving packets of floral preservative in water. These packets can often be obtained from your local florist. You can also make your own preservative by adding a tablespoon of Listerine per gallon of water, but commercial preservatives are preferred. Floral preservatives accomplish two functions; they prevent bacterial growth in your water and provide nutrients and energy for the life processes of the plants.
Many times our houses have a very low relative humidity during the winter. These low humidities can lead to dehydration of flower buds and blossoms. To raise the humidity around your plants, mist the plants or drape a dry cleaner’s bag over your stems. If a cleaner’s bag is too small, use a painter’s clear plastic drop cloth. Humidifiers can also help raise humidity levels.
Normally, forsythia will take about nine days to flower, quince will require between 12 to 20, and pussy willow needs from five to 15 days. The time required will vary depending on indoor conditions and how late in the winter the branches were collected. Most woody plants should be in flower within three weeks of collection and will remain in flower for about a week before blooms start to fade.
Christmas plants such as poinsettias, holiday cactus, and amaryllis bulbs are a fun way to bring some color to the winter months. They like a bright, sunny location in your home and regular watering. Watch this video for tips on how to purchase the best poinsettia.
Pumpkins, corn stalks, and mums will likely be decorating our porches. Some people purchase mums every year and some have their mums come back every season. People often wonder if chrysanthemums are an annual or a perennial plant. Watch this video to learn more:
Late September through October is an excellent time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as crocus, tulips, and daffodils. These plants need to develop roots in the fall and must meet a chilling requirement over the winter in order to bloom in the spring.
If your irises aren’t looking healthy this year, they may have a condition called bacterial soft rot. The bacteria will cause a smelly and slimy rot of the leaves and rhizomes. Leaves often separate easily from the rhizome. If your plants are heavily infested they may die.
Though most often associated with iris borer, environmental damage can also provide an entry point for this disease.
Rhizomes that show extensive signs of damage should be discarded. If there is a plant that has special value, you may wish to try to save it. The American Iris Society suggests using a spoon to remove all infected tissue. Then, allow the rhizome to dry in the sun. Finally, use a chlorine based cleanser to powder the wound. Dousing in place with Dial antibacterial soap (with triclosan) can be substituted for the chlorine based cleanser.
When dividing rhizomes from beds that have shown evidence of soft rot, disinfect the knife between cuts of even apparently healthy rhizomes with a 10% bleach solution or rubbing alcohol.
As mentioned previously, iris borer damage can provide a place of entry for this disease. To control iris borers, remove and discard dead leaves in the fall to eliminate a number of the iris borer eggs. Larvae can also be killed by hand in June by squeezing infested leaves in the vicinity of the injury. During division, borers in lightly infested rhizomes can be killed by poking them with a piece of wire. Borer control can also be achieved through the use of imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer All-In-One Rose & Flower Care, Bonide Systemic Granules, Hi-Yield Systemic Insect Granules) or through the use of the parasitic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae or Heterorhabditis bacteriophora.