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How to Divide Perennials Like a Pro

Perennials come back every spring, growing bigger and spreading further with each passing year. While this continual growth brings lots of benefits, there are also some challenges. However, you can avoid problems with your perennials if you divide them every few years! 

Why You Should Divide Perennials

As your perennials and their roots continue to grow and spread, things are going to get pretty crowded after a while. If they run out of room, it will be much harder for your perennials to absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil, and their growth will suffer.  

By dividing your perennials, you’ll have two plants with smaller roots systems. If you plant one half in the original hole, it will have so much more room to continue spreading. Then, you’ve got a second plant ready to be transplanted somewhere else in the garden or gifted to a neighbor for their garden! It’s a perfect way to multiply the plants in your garden without spending a dime. 

When your perennials need dividing, they’ll often show signs of reduced growth—or a dead patch—in the middle of the plant, resulting in a donut shape. They’ll also have fewer flowers than in previous years and may appear crowded between surrounding plants in the garden. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to grab your garden tools and get to work!

The Best Time to Divide Perennials

The best timing for division depends on which season your plant blooms. You’ll want to divide spring and summer-blooming perennials in fall, while you should split your fall bloomers in spring. Your plants need to devote their energy towards restoring and spreading their roots, so if they’re actively flowering, they won’t perform as well. 

Some perennials, like hostas, bloom at different times of the year depending on your chosen variety, so if you’re unsure of when or how to split them, pop into Ted Lare! We can answer any questions you may have, and we have plenty of quality tools for the job. 

How Do You Split a Perennial? 

When you’re dividing plants, it’s important to remember that the roots of a plant are like its brain. Work gently, or else you’re going to scramble them up! 

Tools You’ll Need for Dividing Perennials

 

-Your Hands

-A Sterile Knife

-Garden Forks

digging up a perennial plant

 

Begin by gently digging your plant out from the ground, being careful not to tear too much of the roots, and keeping them intact as best as you can.

 

Brush off any dirt clumps from the root ball, and gently tease the roots with your fingers to loosen them. 

Next, you’ll need to split the root ball in half. You might be able to do this with your hands, but if the root ball is very thick and matted, you may need to use a sterilized knife. For big jobs, you can use two garden forks—stick them both into the center of the root ball, then pull the two halves apart. 

If you see any dead or diseased roots, cut these off. Now your divisions are ready to be planted! Get them in the ground quickly because roots dry out, like a fish out of water. If you’re dividing lots of plants at once, you can keep the divisions in a bucket filled with a bit of water to keep them from drying out. 

When you transplant your divisions, remember to water generously for the next few weeks to help their roots establish. 

Ted Lare has an incredible selection of perennials in Iowa. Visit us soon to see all the incredible varieties of top-selling favorites, like hostas and daylilies, plus all the supplies you need to divide and conquer!