Time to Divide Spring Perennials!

Time to Divide Spring Perennials!

perennials

It’s Spring! Time to break out that Spring Chore List and start gearing up for the growing season!

One of these items to check off of your to-do list is to clean up and divide those Perennials that give you so much joy, color, beauty, and fragrance all year long!

Typically, fall-blooming Perennials are what you divide in spring, and now is a great time to Transplant these Perennials too!

Perennials in general are best moved and divided in the early spring before or just as new growth begins to form. This reduces the load on the root system as it gets established in its new location. It is also a great time to clear away any of last year's debris and top-dress your Perennial crowns with compost or a fresh layer of mulch.

Avoid dividing or transplanting plants when a hard freeze is expected in your near future, or when they are blooming.

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Why Divide Perennials?

  • Keep the plants healthy and vigorous
  • Increase air circulation around the plants
  • Maintain the size
  • Maintain the health of the roots
  • Prevents overcrowding
  • Break up larger clumps and spread them out throughout the garden and repeat them throughout your border.
  • Give some away as gifts and share the beauty!
  • Stimulates new growth

Even though some Perennials like Peonies and Rhubarb have been known to grow undisturbed in the garden for 50 or more years! Because of their smaller root systems that don’t go as deep as shrubs or trees, most other Perennials that have been growing in the same location for the last 3-5 years can deplete the soil of vital nutrients.

By digging up these plants carefully, separating them into more modest-sized clumps, and replanting them elsewhere, you create more space for roots to grow and absorb nutrients and water. While you don’t have to dig up the entire clump, you can simply remove sections from the main clump without digging up the parent plant. Fill in the gaps made by the removed sections with fresh soil or compost.

It also provides you with the opportunity to replenish the original site with fresh earth, compost, and other amendments as needed.

Signs It’s Time To Divide

It’s recommended you divide your clumping and spreading perennials every 3-5 years. Some of the telltale signs it’s time to divide your Perennial plants include:

  • Smaller flowers or Reduced or non-existent flowering displays
  • Yellowing leaves for no reason
  • Stunted, wimpy, sickly-looking growth
  • The center of the clumps is dying out/Bald spots (especially Ornamental Grass)
  • The clump is overtaking its area or overtaking other plants
  • Excessively leggy growth that needs to be staked when it didn’t in the past

Typical Perennials That Prefer Being Divided & Transplanted in Spring

Technically, you can lift and transplant your garden residents at any time during the growing season. But spring is considered the best for these plants! Avoid dividing a plant that is already stressed (drought, physical damage, etc.)

bee balm

  • Aster Plants - These fall-blooming plants can be slow to start, but in spring after the ground thaws, divide up into 5-6 inch chunks. Trim back to a fat bud developing on the stems.
  • Bee Balm (Monarda) - Also known as Wild Bergamot, these whimsical herbs are summer-flowering pollinator plants that form spreading clumps with fairly shallow root systems. These are Mint-family relatives and can have an aggressive root system, so dig far outside their root ball and get as much of it as possible. Then divide into sections and transplant.
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) and Coneflowers (Echinacea) - In spring or fall, divide into sections 3-4 inches of roots every 4-5 years. Wait until you start to see the new growth appears.

columbine

  • Chrysanthemum - Divide into chunks in the early spring as soon as you see new growth appear. Divide with a sharp knife, ensuring each chunk has several shoots per root.
  • Columbines (Aquilegia) - Dividing carefully, these delicate perennials have deep roots and balk for a while after transplanting. It’s best to divide them in half rather than break them up into smaller pieces, digging down as deeply as possible to get as much of the root system as you can. Watch for seedlings as these smaller seedlings that may sprout in the area are easier to move when young.
  • Coral Bells/Alumroot (Heuchera) - Also applying to related Foamy Bells and Foam Flower, use your fingers to gently tease the root system into large divisions and replant in the early spring.
  • Dianthus - Even though these are spring bloomers, you can divide in the very early spring while still dormant and before they begin to flower. Remove any seed heads and old growth to keep the energy focused on new root development.

fern

  • False Indigo (Baptisia) - After new growth just start poking out of the ground, dig around the circumference of the root ball and then get ready to dig deep. These large root systems need to be divided with the use of an ax or very sharp saw, spade, or shovel. Lift the root ball and divide it into sections with 3 or more shoots.
  • Ferns - You can read all about dividing Ferns here in our Garden Blog!
  • Goldenrod - Despite being fall blooming, these vigorous perennials can be divided every 2 - 5 years. Before new growth, dig out the clumps and divide them into sections with a knife or spade.
  • Hardy Hibiscus - Deeply rooted and tough, these shrubby perennials will be a chore to dig up and divide. In the early spring before new growth emerges, you will need to dig deep and have a sharp ax or saw to divide them.
  • Hyssop/Anise Hyssop (Agastache) - In the spring or fall, Hyssop plants are easy to divide and forgiving as long as they are replanted in similar conditions at the right depth.

hibiscus

  • Japanese Anemone - In spring or autumn, dig up the entire root ball and separate them according to the original size. You can break the rootball up using a knife or spade.
  • Liatris - Also known as Gayfeather and Blazing Star, these perennials have both corms and tuberous roots that can be divided into chunks with a sharp knife in the spring.
  • Ornamental Grass - Prune in the early spring before new growth emerges by cutting back top growth to 2-3 inches and dividing the roots into similar-sized clumps, discarding the dead interior sections if present.
  • Penstemon - Beardtongue can be cut apart to ensure each root section has several shoots attached each spring when new growth appears.

yarrow

  • Red Hot Poker Plants (Kniphofias) - Break up the clump with a sharp spade or knife, dividing sections of root that have one or more growth tips attached to each.
  • Russian Sage - In spring, lift out the offshoots that form at the base of the plant and fill in the gaps with fresh soil and compost.
  • Perennial Salvia/Perennial Sage - Lift and section out the clumps using a sharp knife or sharp spade.
  • Tall Garden Phlox - Lift and divide with a sharp knife into sections with 2-3 shoots each, before you see new growth appear. 
  • Yarrow (Achillea) - Dig up and divide your clumps in the spring after cutting back last year's stems, separating the rhizomes into sections.

For any other Perennials, check with your local County Extension Office for information on specific plants!

flower

Should a Perennial be planted in the wrong location (too shady/too sunny) or the ground has poor drainage or is wet/flooded and the plant is suffocating, or its location is threatened by the ever-changing needs of your landscape - by all means, get it moved to a more appropriate location!

Always ensure you are planting your divided sections at the same depth they were previously - no deeper and no higher!

Check out more in-depth instructions on lifting, planting, and caring for your newly divided plants in our #ProPlantTips for Care!

Get Happier, Healthier, & More Plants By Dividing Your Perennials!

Dividing your Perennials is rewarding! Your plants gain increased vigor, and improved flowering and flowering size, and you can enjoy more plants for your landscape! (or to share and spread the love!)

This form of propagation keeps your Perennials healthy, and happy, and keeps your garden brimming! So get out there this spring and see which of your plants need some wiggle room!

Happy Planting!

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