Get More Plants Out of What You Have: Dividing Perennials

snowdrop flowers

You can create brand new “baby” plants by dividing perennials. It’s easier than you think. This is also a great way to swap plants with a friend and expand each other’s gardens with more variation. And let’s not forget, it saves money! Why buy new plants when you can expand your own garden for free?

First of all, what is a perennial? It’s a plant that grows back every year on its own (and with proper care from its gardener, of course). Diving your perennials is actually good for the plants, keeping them healthy and vibrant with new growth.

Some common perennials:

Baby’s Breath
Butterfly Weed
Evening Primrose
Hardy Begonia
Russian Sage

Common edible perennials:


However, there are a vast amount of other perennial plants not listed here. It’s likely your garden includes many other varieties as well.

Now for tips on dividing perennials.

Divide in the Fall

Fall is the best time for dividing perennials. The plant’s energy is focused on root growth in order to make it through the winter. When you divide and replant a perennial it needs to grow strong roots to develop into a sturdy healthy plant on its own. This time of year is perfect for that focus. While technically you can divide perennials at any time of year, it’s in the fall that you will have the best chance of having a successfully replanted division. Furthermore, when dividing in the fall, make sure it is at least 6 weeks from when the ground reaches freezing temperatures where you live. Your plant needs to establish its root system before being able to withstand a freeze.

Divide Plants at Their Best

If a plant looks spectacular this season, plan to divide it this fall. You know it’s healthy and strong and this is the best time to divide it into several healthy plants. It will even increase the health of all of the divided plants. When you wait until the plant isn’t do so well to divide it, it is less likely to regain health. Any plant within the clump that looks very unwell is probably better off removed from the group all together so as not to affect the other plants. However, if there are just unhealthy signs on it such as pest damage or dead parts of the plant, remove those parts completely when making your division. This will allow the plant the opportunity to recover by growing brand new roots and leaves in their place.

Divide into Small Sections

When dividing perennials, the replanted sections should be about a fourth the size of the original clump. This will result in aggressive re-growth that will make for stronger, healthier, and fuller plants in the long run. And keep in mind that perennials tend to double, triple, or even quadruple themselves in as little as a year. These smaller sections will be full size plants on their own in very little time. This is why you also need to take care to spread out your replanted divisions so they don’t crowd each other.

Transporting Divided Perennials

You and your friend decided to swap your divided perennials, but she’s quite a drive away. That’s okay. When you can’t replant your perennial sections right away, the trick is to keep the roots cool and moist. You can put the plants in a box or a bucket and cover the roots with damp newspaper to retain the moisture. If your attempts to keep the roots moist fail, there is still hope. You can soak the roots in water for about an hour before planting. This should bring the plant back to good health.

So, the next time you spot a beautiful perennial flower in your friend’s garden, don’t run out and spend money on the same plant. Ask her to divide it and share it with you. It’ll make her plant healthier and make your garden prettier for free.

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