Glorious green! Plants are popping up, leafing out and generally making a delightful spectacle of themselves around here. Each tiny new leaf, fragrant blossom and delicate seedling is a testament to the endurance and versatility of Mother Nature. I get so excited that I just want to share it with everyone! And I like to share plants too. Native plants can be easy to share, and there are several ways to do just that.
I wrote several months ago about plants that you didn’t want – plants that you might have seen elsewhere and admired or plants offered to you by friends that wanted to share. But those were invasive plants, easily cultivated and shared because of those very properties that make them invasive. I propose here today some ways to share GOOD plants, and how to recognize when to share them.
The plants that I share are recognized as "shareable" in three ways: they are plants that can be divided, plants that throw off seeds, and plants that get in my way (usually by creeping). Let me explain with some examples.
Plants that can be divided: These are plants that have mild to aggressive means of vegetative propagation. Herbaceous plants create additional growth underground via rhizomes and corms. Woody plants spread by suckers. Both types of growth require no flowers or fruit so this is called vegetative propagation. You can separate the new growth from the parent plant and pot it up to share.
Herbaceous plants are often separated in the spring when you can see the new growth. Some of the plants that I have in this category are Copper Iris (Iris fulva), Crested Iris (Iris cristata), Mouse-eared coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata), and creeping ferns like Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata) and Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis).
Woody plants can be separated in the spring also. Many folks recommend making a “root pruning” cut in the fall (use your shovel to separate the sucker from the parent but don’t dig it up), allowing the sucker to spend the cool months making additional new roots. Some of the plants in this category are Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), Possumhaw viburnum (Viburnum nudum), and Smooth hydrangea like ‘Annabelle’ (Hydrangea arborescens). I find that plants that sucker are especially adaptable to transplanting – it’s like they have a supersized growth spurt just waiting for an excuse to make roots.
|Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'|
Plants that throw off seeds: Of course many plants throw off seeds, but these are ones that sprout readily in the surrounding area, allowing me to recognize them for the goodies that they are. Once these seedlings emerge, I pot them up. While often these are seeds of herbaceous plants, sometimes I find woody seedlings like Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Florida anise (Illicium floridanum) and several species of Viburnum.
The herbaceous seedlings that I most often find are Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and two kinds of Penstemon (Penstemon smallii and P. digitalis). Seeds usually germinate based on soil temperature and light exposure. The rate of germination can vary enough that I have new plants for 3-4 months in a row (the Salvia seedlings usually don’t show up until May). It keeps me busy.
Plants that get in my way: I know this is a terrible way to phrase this - of course I mean this in the nicest way possible! Some plants just don’t stay put. They might be creepers – like Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia) and Patridgeberry (Mitchella repens). Occasionally I have to remove part of the population to keep a path clear. One year, I moved a bunch of pussytoes over to the other side of the path. They were just as happy on the other side.
Other plants just pop up out of nowhere. Cranefly orchid (Tipularia discolor) is like that. My path will be perfectly clear and suddenly it is full of baby orchids. Perhaps the ants dropped the seeds or the wind blew them over there. Luckily they are easy to move – not fussy at all.
So you see that your ability to share plants is full of possibilities. Look around and see what you can find. And if you have LOTS to share, think about donating some things to the Georgia Native Plant Society’s plant sale. Now is a great time to pot things up for the April sale.