Dividing Perennials

Dividing Perennials

10 Easy-Care Perennials This booklet will introduce you to 10 beautiful perennials that are undemanding, wonderfully versatile, and adaptable to a variety of growing conditions. They’re not particularly fussy about soil conditions, and they can tolerate both drought and overwatering, as long as they have adequate drainage. These wonders of the perennial world grow quickly, require little maintenance, and reward you with a kaleidoscope of color and gorgeous foliage year after year.

Most perennials can be divided as soon as they are through blooming for the year. Perennials need to be divided when:

  • the flowers are smaller than normal
  • the stems fall over easily
  • there are a large number of underdeveloped shoots
  • the center of the clump is hollow and dead
  • the bottom foliage is sparse and poor

Most perennials need to be divided every three or four years, although some resent being disturbed and should only be divided when necessary. A few species, such as chrysanthemum, Monarda and Anthemis, do best when divided every spring.

All spring blooming plants as well as peonies, irises and oriental poppies can be divided as soon as the blooms fade or in the fall. All others should be divided in very early spring in zones 2-5 and in fall in warmer zones.

If the weather has been very dry, water the plant thoroughly the day before you divide. If possible, work on a cool, cloudy day or late in the evening to reduce moisture loss.

To divide a perennial, first dig around and under the entire plant and lifting it carefully to avoid root damage. Gently shake the soil from the roots or rinse the soil off with a gentle stream of water from a hose. Prune the top of the plant to about six inches and remove damaged or diseased sections. Divisions should be taken from the outer edges of the plant since this younger growth will produce more vigorous plants. Some plants can be broken apart by hand, but if necessary, use a sharp knife.

Make sure each division has at least three vigorous shoots. Small shoots will take longer to flower. Small divisions taken from a number of perennials can be planted together in an "nursery bed" where they can be nurtured to flowering size, then moved to the main flowerbed.

Replant the divisions as quickly as possible, setting them at the same depth as the parent plant. Water thoroughly and provide mulch to prevent the soil from drying out. A layer of mulch will also protect the developing roots from frost.

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