Dividing perennials: When? How? Why?

Has your perennial garden reached a certain maturity and the plants are a little too close together? Want to make a new perennial bed? You love one of your plants and want to give it to a friend? Nothing could be easier: just divide them! Dividing perennials is quite simple and also allows you to rejuvenate plants that may be getting stripped in the middle after a few years.

Perennial division: spring or fall?

Both answers are good! Fall is preferred for dividing perennials that bloom in spring and early summer, and spring for those that bloom from late summer until frost. Fall is a good time to divide perennials since the soil is warm and water is readily available. If the division is done before mid-October, the roots will have time to develop before the cold weather arrives. Regardless of the timing, do your division on a cloudy day so that the roots of the plants are not exposed to sunlight.

How to divide perennials

  • With a spade, dig around the plant to remove the root ball. To make the job easier, water the soil well the day before you do it.
  • With a sharp square shovel or an edger, separate the root ball into several small plants. Get rid of the less healthy parts.
  • Put your new plants in the ground right away, without burying the crown, and water thoroughly.

Add compost and a good fertilizer to your potting soil at planting time for better plant recovery. Be sure to keep the soil moist, but not soggy, for weeks after dividing your perennials.

For plants that are easy to divide, such as hostas and daylilies for example, you don’t have to remove the entire root ball to divide the plant. You can cut part of the root ball directly into the ground with a sharp tool and leave the rest where it is. Fill in the space left vacant with soil.

Dividing perennials is pretty easy and will restore the vigor of your favorite plants while multiplying the pleasure of seeing them flourish in different areas of your yard. Have fun!

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