It’s time to divide perennials

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By Dennis Morgeson

With the end of the growing season looming it is still a good time to divide your perennials.  If your perennials didn’t perform as well this year as they have in the past even with irrigation it is probably because they need dividing.  When perennials get overcrowded they don’t bloom well and usually go into a decline meaning more disease, insect, and disease problems.

The remedy for declining perennials is to divide them.  Most perennials actually need dividing every 3-5 years and it’s a good way to expand your garden or give new plants to friends. 

The best time to divide perennials is in fall and spring.  As a general rule perennials that bloom in the spring, such as daylilies, peonies, and bearded iris should be divided in the fall.  Although, you can divide daylilies anytime, the best time for them is actually August.
Perennials that bloom in the summer and fall such as hosta, aster, chrysanthemum, sedum, and rudbeckia should be divided in the spring.

The technique for dividing perennials is relatively simple.  Simply push your spade, fork, or shovel down the middle of the plants and dig you a hunk off.  I like leaving mine in larger pieces rather than completely loosening the soil ball and taking individual plants. 

This way a portion of the original plant stays intact relatively undisturbed to put on a show next year and this gives you a new plant that is pretty much intact as well.  Don’t break the soil free from the root ball simply replace the soil with what comes out of the planting hole.  By transplanting this way you get a mature looking perennial bed every year!

Remember to water well after transplanting and not just the piece you took out.  The original plant will benefit from a good soaking as well.

After you plant apply a good 2-3 inches of mulch around your plants to help keep the soil from freezing and thawing, this can push your plants out of the ground before their root systems get anchored in.  Wait until next spring to fertilize.  You don’t want to push your plants to grow too soon, they may get burnt by a early freeze this fall or a late freeze next spring.  Happy Gardening!