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Dividing Perennials – Ways to Rejuvenate Prized Perennials

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m running on empty my productivity always gets a big boost if I take some time to rejuvenate. The same holds true for perennial plants that have become less productive, worn out, or have outgrown their space.


Dividing helps to rejuvenate these plants by breathing new life into old or overcrowded perennials and giving their roots plenty of room in which to grow; it’s one of the easiest and quickest ways to increase a plant’s overall performance for years to come. As an added bonus, each divided piece creates a new plant that you can add to your garden or share with your family or friends.

Look out for signs

A fully-grown perennial can be divided every three to five years. But a better guideline is to look for any of these signs; a plant that doesn’t bloom as well as it used to, flowers that are smaller than usual, bottom foliage that looks sparse, or when the plant’s center has become woody, barren or dead.

Tune in on timing

Perennials that are best suited for fall division are those that bloom in spring or summer. However, perennials that flower in fall are best divided in spring after their growing tips have emerged.

Wait until the cooler autumn weather has arrived before dividing plants, which may be anytime from September through November. The exact timing will depend on where you live, but a good rule of thumb is to divide perennials at least six weeks before the first hard freeze arrives – especially if you garden in the colder climates of the north. This will allow time for the new divisions to develop strong roots systems for bountiful spring blooms.

Prime picks

You probably have a few perennials of your own that make for good candidates to divide and replant in fall. Mature clump-forming perennials like daylilies, Shasta daisies, astilbes, hostas or lamb’s ears are all easily divided. Other candidates include cannas, Oriental poppies, bleeding hearts, veronica, coreopsis, geraniums and primroses.

How to Divide Perennials

When it comes to “the great divide”, the steps are basically the same whether the perennial grows from rhizomes (like an iris), has thick and fleshy roots (such as daylilies) or has a finer fibrous root system (like rudbeckia).


  1. Dig up the plant on a cloudy day, keeping as much of the roots intact as possible. Remove or shake off any loose soil so you can easily see the crown and roots.
  2. Divide the plant into smaller pieces. You may be able to pull the plant apart with your hands, but for tangled roots or tenacious masses, use a sturdy knife, sharp spade or garden fork to cut or pry the plant apart.  Note: Make sure that each division has at least two to five vigorous shoots with ample roots attached.  I’ve found that the Radius Garden Pro Spade, available at Kmart’s online store, makes easy work of tough roots.
  3. Remove any damaged or dead area, and then cut the top growth down to about six inches or half the plant’s height.
  4. Replant or pot up the newly divided pieces without delay–you don’t want the exposed roots to dry out. Set each plant at the same depth as before. Note: When replanting iris divisions, leave the top of the rhizome exposed.
  5. Water thoroughly and keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy, while plants re-establish themselves; mulch to keep soil from drying out and protect roots from hard frost.
  6. Have fun! – Kris Wetherbee

Read Kris’ Recent Blogs & Guides

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Kmart Garden Tool(s)

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kris wetherbee



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  1. Thanks for many more great tips and ideas just like your other blog posts and "ask the experts" Q&A. I've been wanting to get more lambs ears production and have them in more places around the yard/garden. This is perfect timing!! :)

  2. Thanks, Kris. Although I know how to divide perennials already, it was nice to get the reminder that now is the time to do it. Always look forward to your blog posts.

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