How to divide Perennial Plants

Perennials need to be divided to give them more growing room and keep them happy and healthy. You will also have the added bonus of more plants to plant somewhere else in the yard. Or you can trade them with friends for other plants or sell them.

You can divide perennial in the spring or fall but I have found it’s good to divide perennials in fall because then the plants can concentrate their energy on root growth and not on blooming. Just make sure to leave enough time before your first frost so that the plants can adjust to their new home. This is usually four to six weeks before your first frost.

In my zone 5 growing zone that time is now, late august. The temperatures are cooling and we are heading into more of a rainy season. I should be ok with frosts and if not I can cover the plants with a row cover and straw for protection against the first few frosts.

Prepare your perennials for division by giving them plenty of water 1 to 2 days before you plan to divide them. This will make sure the plants have a good dose of water before the move. You may also want to clip the plants’ stems to help reduce water loss during division. The plants should be no taller than 6 inches off the ground.

Prepare a new spot for your perennials a day or two before you plan to divide them. Make sure the plants have at least one square foot of space for its roots to expand.

Dig out the perennials. I find that a small shovel works the best and Dig out 6 to 8 inches in all for directions from the plant. This will ensure that you have an adequate root system for the plant.

Position the shovel underneath the perennial and lift it out. If the plant is too heavy, cut it into several pieces and lift them up separately.

Next shake the perennial gently to get some of the dirt off the roots. Now you can separate the roots. Some perennials can be separated by hand and others will need to be done with digging forks or a knife.

Here are two tips that may help:

  • Cut some of the roots out with scissors if they are damaged. This will lead to a healthier plant later and a plant that adjusts to its new home faster.
  • And if the roots are particularly tough, you can try dropping the plant on the ground from a height of about a foot to help loosen up the roots. I have tried this and it helps. Hostas are perennials that seem to be hard to divide and this method helps.

Plant the divisions in the spots that you prepared. Pack the soil around the plant and give it a good watering once it’s in the ground. I try to move plants on an overcast day or late in the afternoon so that they don’t have direct sun right after a move.

Perennials for sandy soil, shady areas and wet areas will be covered in the next few days.

Tags: dividing perennials, tips for moving perennials, perennial plants

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