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Dividing Perennials

Dividing perennials, such as daylilies, peonies and hostas is a good way to expand your garden with plants you already have. Flowers that have grown into big clumps can take command and compete with others for nutrients in the soil. When dividing perennials you’re benefiting your garden in many ways including keeping the garden tidy, encouraging plants to bloom and spreading your plants to put elsewhere.

Why should you divide perennials?

Perennials can outgrow their spaces or crowd neighboring plants in a bed. Some perennials, like irises, need to be divided in order to promote blooming. Dividing perennials can also save you money. When creating an additional flower bed, start by dividing perennials in your garden and add the separated pants into your new bed.

When should you divide perennials?

Early spring is a great time to divide most perennials. This gives your perennials enough time to establish their roots through the summer.

Early fall is also a great time to divide perennials. In early fall, there is less heat stress on your plants compared to peak summer. Make sure to give your plants enough time secure their roots before winter unfolds. Dividing your plants while the weather is nice enough to wear a t-shirt or light sweater will be early enough before winter.

How to divide perennials

Follow these six easy steps to separate perennials.

​1) Gather your tools.

You’ll need a garden fork, spade, trowel, tarp/tub, and a hose. If you have some laying around, gardening gloves come in handy also.

2) Water the plants well.

Watering your plants relieves stress during division and makes it easier to pull out a clump. Divide plants a day or two after a thorough watering.

3) Dig up your plants.

Using a garden fork is easiest, but a spade will get the job done also. Break up soil surrounding the plant, then pull out the plant and place it on a tarp. If you do not want to separate the whole plant, cut through the clump with a spade to only dig out part of the group.

4) Shake soil off the roots.

Removing excess soil from the roots helps you see where to divide the plant. You can also use a hose to wash away some soil.

5) Cut or break apart the plant apart to divide it.

If the clump is growing tightly, you may need a trowel or knife to divide them. Each division should include roots and leaves. If the leaves are too thick to work with, you can cut them down by a third.

6) Pre-plant the divided sections.

Place the divided plants at the same depth as they were when you dug them up. After the plants are in their new location, pack down the soil around each division. Next, water around the plant well. Make sure the area is moist by poking your finger into the soil. Adding mulch around the new plants is a good idea to keep moisture in and to reduce weeds. If you cannot plant right after dividing, temporarily keep the plants in a flower pot until you are able to place them in your garden. Take care of your freshly divided perennials with continuous water until they become established. After a few years you will have more beautiful plants to divide!

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