CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dividing and transplanting perennials is a fall task that often is overlooked. There's so much cleaning up to do, I just can't get to the digging and cutting that has to be done to separate my overgrown plants. Here are some tips from Doug's Green Garden Newsletter:
"Remember my rule of thumb for cool weather gardens. Transplant and dig all perennials in September whether they're looking great or not. For every zone warmer than 4 you live in, you can add a week into October. So a zone 6 gardener would still be able to move perennials in the second week of October. Over many years of moving perennials in the nursery, I discovered survival rates go down drastically the longer you wait past September.
"I finish transplanting or planting evergreens in the last week of October. Woody plants get moved after the leaves have fallen in the fall and can be moved right up to freeze. You can plant trees and shrubs from the nursery at any time from now until freeze and ignore what the leaves are doing.
"The toughest thing is to take a blooming perennial and cut it back for digging and transplanting. Or you wait until spring because darn near everything can be moved successfully in the spring without a problem."
I recently read about spider lilies (Lycoris radiate), a staple of old southern gardens that are easy to share. Because it's a late-summer bloomer, they are sometimes called schoolhouse lilies as it blooms when the children are headed back to school. In coastal regions, it's called a hurricane lily as it coincides with hurricane season. Some gardeners believe that the rains from a hurricane cause it to flower.
Another name, according to Horticulture magazine, is the surprise lily, because when the flowering stalk finally appears, it seems to come from nowhere. The stout stems, laden with buds, sprout from the ground completely on their own, with no accompanying foliage. The leaves emerge in fall and use winter and spring sunlight to restore its reserves. In early summer, the foliage yellows and disappears.
These bulbs are hardy in Zones 7-9 (or 8-10, depending on the source), so we might be a bit cold for them. I read where they can be grown in containers in colder zones, with pots stored in a cool, dry place indoors over the winter. Another suggestion is to plant them in a sunny, sheltered location and cover them with evergreen boughs or pine needles for the winter.
Are there any readers who have grown them in our area? They sound delightful.