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Eight Steps for Dividing Perennials in the Spring

One of the many blessings of perennial plants is their ability to spread and be divided, providing new flower clumps to plant elsewhere in your garden. Unlike annuals that need to be purchased and replaced every year, perennials are the gift that keeps on giving. When it comes to dividing perennials, generally speaking, any plant that blooms after mid June is best divided in the spring. Flowers that bloom in early spring are best divided in the fall.

Green garden shed with garden tools and kitty

Steps for Dividing Perennials

  1. Once you see a growth of one to two inches in the spring, dig up the entire plant, getting as many roots as possible.
  2. Place the plant on a tarp or in a large plastic bin (like a shallow storage box) where you’ll separate it.
  3. Knock off as much loose soil as possible from the roots. You can gently knock the clump against the tarp, use your hands to shake off excess dirt, or even use a garden hose on a stream setting.
  4. Using a paring or garden knife (even a steak knife will do), cut the plant in two. Sometimes you’ll be able to see a divide in the roots where the plant can be easily separated. But if not, simply cut through the roots vertically to make your separation.
  5. If your plant clump is large, you can repeat step 4 to create more plantings for your garden. Each piece should be about the size of your fist and should include both roots and above ground growth.
  6. Plant the divided perennials into new locations at the same depth as when you removed the plant. You can place a section back into the original growing location.
  7. Water the divided perennial after planting, and then water once weekly (if it doesn’t rain) for the first month.
  8. If you have more divisions than you need, give some to friends and neighbors.

Don’t be alarmed if a couple of your transplants don’t survive. This happens from time to time, although I can’t remember any of my divided perennials not making it. I find it so rewarding to create new gardens from existing plants; there’s a special pride in getting new flowers for free!

Hostas divided with a shovel

Types of Perennials to Divide in Spring

Not sure which plants are candidates for dividing in the spring? Here’s a list of some of the more common plants you can divide now, although this list is not comprehensive. Just remember the general rule of thumb: in the spring you can divide perennials that don’t bloom until after mid-June. Otherwise, wait until fall.

  1. Astilbe, divide every 2-3 years
  2. Bee balm
  3. Black-eyed Susan, divide every 3-4 years
  4. Blanket flower, divide every 3-4 years
  5. Coneflower, divide every 4-5 years
  6. Daylily, divide every 4-5 years
  7. Delphinium, divide every 2-3 years
  8. Garden mum, divide every 2-3 years
  9. Hosta
  10. Lady’s mantel, divide in spring or fall
  11. Salvia, divide every 5-6 years
  12. Sedum
  13. Shasta daisy
  14. Speedwell (Veronica hybrids)
  15. Yarrow, divide every 2-3 years
Dividing Perennials in the Spring

6 Comments

  1. I am planning on dividing my Endless Summer Hydrangeas that I heel into the ground every fall for winter protection then pot back up for my door pots. This will be their 3rd summer and they are getting way too large for my pots (pots are 22″ wide). Fingers crossed this all works out. I’ve read that many have split theirs with great results.
    Sedum and hosta plants I have done and I’m so glad they can be split especially my Firecracker sedum groundcover….cost saver if I can split them after a year or so of growth as they will keep my pups from digging in my soil, eating some which gives them the poops:0)

    1. Hi!
      What does that mean to “heel” Hydraengas into the ground? I am in Colorado at 7200’ and have Hydraengas in big heavy pots that come out for about 4-5 months and stay inside the rest of the year. I’d love to put them in the ground but afraid they won’t survive the winter and will also need to rework watering for them…and some shade.
      Any suggestions?

  2. Thank you for this list of when to divide plants, it will certainly be used. Can’t wait till it gets warmer, I love seeing plants come up, sometimes I almost forget what I have,lol!!

  3. I have been trying to grow Hydrangeas in my yard for 2 yrs now! Well the 2 that I planted the yr before last have barely grown and one did not even return this year! It only gets sun for half the day! I was even fertilizing because I have horrible rocky soil! So Should I start over and plant new ones in the Full Sun? I think that’s what I did wrong! I love Hydrangeas and do not want to give up.❤ My mother never had them while I was coming up for some reason ,lol, maybe they are beyond my expertise😆 Thank you for any help on this matter! Oh P.S when I planted them they were Pink and they turned Purple! I know that means something about my soil!

  4. Yes I love dividing my plants and spreading into other gardens….I do have one question….we just bought a beautiful property that we are now turning into a farm….the front of our home has 3 large ponds….I would love to put waterlillys…..not sure where to buy them and how to plant them…do you have any suggestions….I live in New Brunswick, Canada. I love your pond pics…beautiful. Thanks, Sheri

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