Every three or four years your perennial plants should be divided. It breaks up overcrowded roots and allows the roots more freedom to grow. Often times it triggers new energy in the plant and more flowers.
Before I dig up my perennials I have a new home in the yard for them to go immediately into or my friends have asked for some of the plants. I enjoy trading plants with my friends and neighbors. It’s also a great way to end up with new plant varieties and save money.
When you are preparing to dig up your plants you will need to collect pots, a bucket, additional soil or compost, a shovel and an axe or small saw. How you separate your plants will depend on which style of roots they have.
Perennials With Fibrous Roots
These plants have shallow roots and you can use a shovel to dig up them up. Sometimes the roots are loosely knotted so you need to gently pull them apart taking care not to break the roots. A few of these roots are a little more tangled and you may need to pry them apart. You can usually do this with your hands.
Perennials With a Large Root Ball
You will need to dig up the entire root ball of this type of root system. If the roots won’t break apart with the shovel you can use a small hand ax or saw to cut them apart. I lay the root ball on its side and cut from the sides, it just works better than cutting from the top of the root ball down. Sometimes you can divide a plant with a large root ball by slicing off portions of the plant from the outside.
After I dig the plants up I give them a light soaking with a liquid fertilizer to help the plant with transplant shock. As quickly as possible I get them back into soil and make sure they have a little additional shade for a day or two. If I plant part of the original plant back into the place where I dug the plant up. I then add compost and fresh soil and tap the plant securely in place and water.
When you divide a plant you will get anywhere from two divisions to a dozen. Here are a few suggestion hat will help your plants to thrive.
- Try to dig up and divide the plants in the late afternoon or on a cloudy day to prevent the sun from drying out the plants and roots.
- Replant the new plants as quickly as possible to prevent further shock and to prevent the roots from drying out.
- Cut back the plants foliage by two-thirds or to only a few inches high, depending on the variety. This gives the plant extra energy to put into the plants roots where it will be needed.
- Prepare the soil where the divisions will be planted by adding compost and fresh soil.
- Water the divisions well and keep them well watered for at least the next four weeks.
- Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around the plants. This will protect them from extremes of heat and cold, to conserve moisture and protect the roots from frost damage it you live in an area that receives heavy frost in the winter months.