Many gardeners start their garden when a neighbor or friend gives them a few plants from their garden. Usually these plants are identified by a common name like Ditch Lily or Lemon-Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, or with the comment, “these are just the old-fashioned ones.” These plants have proved themselves survivors, and have formed the backbone of many backyard gardens. Most are hardy plants, easy to grow, divide, and transplant.

New gardeners should be wary, however. Some plants can be dangerous. Years ago I accepted a plant called Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus reptens). For two years this pretty groundcover grew spreading in the area planned for it. Then the gift became a curse. The third year I was pulling it out of the vegetable garden and away from the perennial plants it was choking. By the fourth year, I sprayed Round-Up on any shoot daring to come out of the ground.

This warning aside, gardeners can give away great plants, often sharing growing tips along with their garden’s excess bounty. The plants become a way to remember friends by what they gave away. Friends have shown me their gardens, pointing out the peonies from their great-grandma’s house, or all the plants from one friend or another. (I have my grandmother’s rhubarb and the daylily pictured is from my father-in-law.) The garden creates a history of family and friendship.

Many perennials require dividing every three to five years. When a plant dies-out in the middle leaving a ring of growth around a dead center, it is time to dig it up and re-plant the living sections. Other plants spread and outgrow their allotted space in the garden.

Most dividing and transplanting takes place in the spring or fall. In fall transplanting, plants should be moved at least a month before the first expected frost, and they usually will not bloom the first season in their new location. To ensure success keep the transplants watered the first year while they get established, but do not fertilize as this can burn the roots. Once the ground has frozen for winter, spread mulch over the plants to keep thawing and freezing cycles from uprooting the plants.

Receive a few plants, and in a few years you will be giving away plants. The hard part is finding someone willing to take all the extra plants.