How To Divide Perennial Plants

The etymology of perennial, according to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, is Latin, perennis, from per- throughout + annus- year. Perennial plants are ornamental plants that have the capability to re-grow after one season of growth.  Although they do not live forever, dividing them promotes healthy growth and vigor. Dividing perennials is also the best way to multiply your plants and expand your garden.

You will know when your plants need division when they show some signs such as congestion or overcrowding of branches, and the loss of vigor. Loss of vigor may mean your plants did not bloom as much as the previous year, the center of the plant is dying or a hole develops at the center of the plant. If you see these symptoms, these are sure signs that you need to divide. Read on to learn some easy steps to divide your perennial plants.

  1. Water the plants that you intend to divide a day before, especially if the weather is dry. This will allow you to smoothly dig up the plant with minimal root damage.
  2. With a fork or a shovel, dig about 6 to 8 inches of soil around the plant. Make sure to take out most, if not the entire root system when you lift up the plant.
  3. Gently shake off excess soil from the plant's root ball and remove dead leaves and stems then divide the clumps into sections.  Gently pull the divisions apart with your hands. Tip: If the plant is so dense making it impossible for you divide them with your hands, go ahead and use a pitch fork or a sharp saw. Make sure to do it with caution, not only for the plants but mostly for you.
  4. Now that you have two plants as a result of the division, you can now decide if the resulting plant's size is good enough for replanting. If you still find it very hefty and it still has a sizeable amount of roots, you may have to divide it several times until you reach a suitable size for planting.  Tip: For fastest re-establishment of you plants, make sure your divisions have lots of good roots.
  5. Place the plants into the soil at the same depth they were at, prior to the division. It is important to rejuvenate the soil by placing compost or other organic materials to replenish the soil's nutrients that were lost. For the new divisions, make sure to replant them on the ground or in container pots as soon as possible.  Avoid leaving the roots exposed to the heat unnecessarily so as not to dry them.  Tip: It is essential to add soil enrichments such as compost or other organic materials to the soil before replanting it to renew the soil. This will ensure a better success rate for your plants to flourish in their new location. This should be added to both the original plant and the new divisions.
  6. Keep your new plants, watered well.  Moisture is necessary for these new plants to thrive.

If you notice that your new plants are wilting, you may have to provide shade to protect them from the wind and extreme heat of the sun. You can use a burlap screen as protection until they are established.

Now you can go out to your garden and multiply your plants. Remember your new divisions are like new seedlings, treat them with care.  Have fun!


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