Plant perennials any time the soil isn’t frozen

  • Walter Reeves
  • For the AJC
Jan 03, 2018
Daylilies are easy to divide and transplant, even in winter. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Q: Is it too late to plant perennials? Janice Rowe, Monroe

A: Perennials can be planted throughout the winter as long as the ground is not frozen. This rarely happens. You can install new perennials or divide and move existing landscape plants whenever working outdoors is comfortable. Daylily, hosta, and peony plants are easy to unearth, divide, and plant once again.

Q: I recently purchased a Douglas fir, about one foot tall. What do I do next for best growth? Kimberly Mayfield, Gainesville

A: This will be a daunting task! Douglas fir is best adapted to the northwestern U.S., in Hardiness Zones 4-6. We live in the warmer Hardiness Zone 7. Our hot, humid summers are not easy for a Douglas fir to tolerate. I think it would be happier if planted outdoors now.

This is my best advice: Choose a site that gets morning sunshine and afternoon shade. The site should have a slight slope, to help water move away from the roots. Use a shovel to loosen the soil twelve inches deep in a planting area eight feet across. Remove one third of the soil in the area and replace it with gritty sand, such as paver leveling sand or granite dust. Thoroughly mix it into the soil. If the soil is mostly clay to begin with, mix in four cubic feet of soil conditioner. After planting, water deeply once each week for a year, particularly during the summer. Following these steps will give you at least a 50 percent chance that your fir will survive for a decade or more.

Q: Last month’s snow bent my 25-foot tall Foster holly about 90 degrees and I think I will have to cut it. I can leave a 4-foot stump. Will it sprout from that stump? Tom Appelt, email

A: Foster holly, along with most other hollies, is very responsive to pruning. If your tree is healthy it’s almost certain that it will resprout from the stump you leave. But it is also true that these new sprouts will not be as firmly attached to the trunk as the original limbs were. For that reason, don’t let your holly grow more than ten or 15 feet tall. If it is near something valuable, like your parking area or patio, the better course of action might be to replace your tree with another Foster holly.

Q: When should I dig up and divide outdoor amaryllis? Most literature says after foliage turns brown. But mine usually does not die down all winter. Von Woods, email

A: Do it now, before cold temperatures freeze the bulbs. My garden amaryllis had green leaves as well until the wintery blast a couple of weeks ago. The best time to dig and divide is October or November. The leaves may be green then but the plant isn’t photosynthesizing much. Keep the bulbs in a cool place indoors until time to plant in late April or early May when the soil is quite warm.