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Dividing Perennials


Dividing perennials is an easy project that will afford great results in your garden. From one plant, you get several free plants to use elsewhere in your landscape or to give away to friends and family.


Some perennials, such as Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and Siberian irises, need frequent dividing to perform their best. Others, such as peonies, can go decades without needing any division. You can tell that a plant needs division if it develops a dead core in the center of its crown. If the foliage is fairly lush but the plant is steadily producing fewer flowers each year, it may also need dividing.


What time of year should you divide perennials? The best time to divide most spring- and early-summer flowering perennials is in the fall. The best time for dividing most late-summer and fall-flowering perennials is in the spring.





Step 1: Dig up the root ball

Lifting the root ball Dig up the root ball of smaller plants with a spade and then lift them entirely from the soil with a garden fork. For larger plants, where lifting the root ball would be difficult, remove a portion at a time by slicing through the root ball with a spade and then digging up that portion. You can just leave the other portion of the original plant where it is.

Step 2: Break the root ball into sections

Break the root ball If possible, break the root ball into smaller sections with your hands. You can do this only with delicate plants. Larger, more tightly knit root balls will require slicing into sections with a knife. Very large, dense root balls, such as those of daylilies or Siberian irises, will require prying apart with two spading forks. You may even need to use a small hand ax to hack through difficult root balls. Use this method as a last resort since it is very damaging to the plant.

Step 3: Replant separated sections

Most perennials can be divided into several smaller plants. Replant as desired or give away plant divisions to friends. Include 1-2 spades of compost or organic matter to improve the soil when replanting the root ball in the original spot or filling in where just a portion of the root ball was removed.