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Now is the Time to Divide!
March 26, 2021

Division can control a plant’s size and re-invigorate the original plant, assuring that it continues to flower abundantly.  It is best to divide when the plant is not in bloom.

Signs a plant should be divided:

  • Has a smaller sized flower than usual
  • Has a hole or dead space in the center of the plant
  • Has less vigorous plant growth or the plant has spread beyond its intended space in the garden
  • The bottom foliage is sparse

Best time of year to divide herbaceous perennials in early spring. Choose a cool or cloudy spring day or early fall day. Well water plants a day or two before you plan to divide. Do not divide or dig around plants same day they have been watered.

Supplies Needed: 

  • long-handled spade or digging pitchfork
  • sharp knife
  • full water can or hose
  • Containers for transferring
  • small spade
  • Potting soil

 

Dig & Separate: 

Dig up the smaller clumps you wish to relocate. Or, if divisions are clustered, may need to dig up all and gently pull division away from original plant.  Can cut thru clump using a knife. Be sure each smaller clump gets 3-5 shoots and part of the root system.

Types of Root Systems:

  1. Spreading: (grasses and tickseed). Cut stems/foliage to 6 inches from ground.  Use spade/fork to dig deep on all 4 sides of plant to loosen. Can be pulled apart by hand or cut apart with a sharp knife. Discard center of the clump if there is a hole or dead space.
  2. Clumping: (daylilies, hostas) Cut stems/foliage to 6 inches from ground. Use spade/fork to dig deep on all 4 sides of plant. Cut through the crown with a heavy, sharp knife. Pry apart with back-to-back digging forks. Keep several eyes/buds with each division. Plant new divisions at same depth as old plants were growing.
  3. Rhizomes: (Bearded irises) stems grow horizontally at or above ground level. Cut out and discard rhizome sections that have been damaged. Each division should retain a few inches of the rhizome and one fan of leaves that has been trimmed back by half. Replant with top showing just above soil level.

Rebury roots of original plant that were exposed when dividing. Loosen soil around plant.  Enrich the soil with compost or soil conditioner. Or, add compost later.

Replant divisions, with proper spacing and depth as soon as possible after you’ve dug them. The goal is to minimize the amount of time the roots are exposed to the air. The air will dry out the roots. Water the new planting well.

 

Water new plantings well through-out the first year. Snip new flower buds the first 1-2 years so plant can develop a strong root system.

Divide in Early Spring*

Every 1-3 Years

  • Aster
  • Garden Mums (Chrysanthemum, formerly Dendranthema x grandiflora)
  • Beardtongue (Penstemon)
  • Golden Marguerite (Anthemis)
  • Beebalm (Monarda)
  • Hollyhock (Alcea)
  • Carnation (Dianthus)
  • Painted Daisy (Tanacetum)
  • Carpathian Harebell (Campanula)
  • Perennial Fountain Grass (Pennisetum)
  • Coralbells (Heuchera)
  • Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
  • Cornflower (Centaurea)
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia)
  • Fernleaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
  • Tall Phlox (Phlox paniculata)*
  • Fernleaf Yarrow (Achilla)
  • Tickseed (Coreopsis)
  • Foamflower (Tiarella)

Every 3-5 Years

  • Astilbe
  • Gay Feather (Liatris)
  • Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)
  • Purple Cone-Flower (Echinacea)
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
  • Mallow (Malvia)
  • Catmint (Nepeta)
  • Sea Thrift (Armeria)
  • Daylilly (Hemerocallis)
  • Speedwell (Veronica)
  • Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium)*

Every 5-10 Years

  • Cranesbill (Geranium)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria)*
  • Goatsbeard (Aruncus)
  • Meadow Rue (Thalictrum)
  • Hosta
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula)
  • Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
  • Oxeye (Heliopsis)
  • Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla)
  • Siberian Iris (Iris siberica)*

Divide Late Summer or Early Fall

  • Asiatic Lily (Lilium)
  • Bearded Iris
  • Peony (Paeonia) (divide infrequently)
  • Do Not Divide
  • Baby's Breath (Gypsophila)
  • False Indigo (Baptisia)
  • Balloon Flower (Platydocon)
  • Flax (Linum)
  • Bugbane (Cimicifuga)
  • Lupine (Lupinus)
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias)
  • Monkshood (Aconitum)
  • Clematis
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia)
  • Poppy

Divide Only to Propagate

  • Bugbane (Cimicifuga)
  • Tall Sedum (Sedum "Autumn Joy")
  • Garden Peony (Paeonia)
  • Yucca
  • Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia)

*May also be divided late summer or early fall

http://www.perennials.com/content/dividing-perennials-in-the-spring/

https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/dividing-perennials/

https://durhammastergardeners.com/2020/04/08/dividing-perennials/

https://extension.psu.edu/dividing-perennials

https://jcra.ncsu.edu/events/calendar/index.php?year=2021&month=03

 


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