Split Your Plants (Perennials)

Split Your Plants (Perennials)

Fall is a great time to split your plants!

We love Perennial plants at Flowerland. Perennials are plants that grow back every year and are herbaceous. Herbaceous is a fancy word for a plant that dies back to the ground in winter but the roots remain alive and the plant regrows the top growth the following year. Herbaceous plants are plants that, by definition, have non-woody stems.  So you could say that Annuals are herbaceous, because an annual is a non-woody plant. Annuals (like petunias or zinnias) die altogether at the end of their growing season, both above the ground and below it. A perennial regrows year after year.

Perennials come back year after year
Perennials come back year after year
  • Dividing or splitting a single perennial into multiple plants helps the plant perform better.
  • When perennials are divided, there is more space for roots to grow and absorb nutrients and water.
  • You will have more plants of the same kind to add to your garden when you divide a perennial or to share with your neighbors!

After a few years in the garden, some perennials start to produce smaller blooms, or develop a dead area at the center of their crown, or require staking to prevent their stems from falling over. All of these are signs that it is time to split your plants!  Dividing a perennial can rejuvenate the plant and improve it’s performance and appearance for the coming year. Fall is a great time to do it because top growth is ending but the soil is warm and we get fall rains making it the perfect time to establish for next year’s growing season. Divide perennials on a cloudy, overcast day as dividing on a hot sunny day can cause the plants to dry out. Ideally, divide plants when there are a couple days of showers in the forecast to provide enough moisture for the new transplants. Divide when the plant is not flowering so it can focus all of its energy on regenerating root and leaf tissue.

Warm fall soil even though air temps have dropped help roots establish
Warm fall soil even though air temps have dropped help roots establish

You can divide spring and summer blooming perennials in the fall. It’s comfortable weather for that type of work and the plants will establish in the soil so they are off to the races next spring. Divide fall blooming perennials like Mums or Japanese Anemones in the spring. The same goes for Ornamental grasses. You can enjoy the ornamental grasses above the snow line for winter and then cut them back and divide in spring.

Fall is a great time to split your plants!
Fall is a great time to split your plants!
  1. Dig up your perennial plant using a spade or fork. Make sure you have a good pair of garden gloves for the process.

  2. Lift the plant out of the ground setting it next to the hole you have created.

  3. Split the plants in half or quarters by using a sharp knife or spade. You can put two spading forks in the center of the clump, back to back, and pull the forks apart.

  4. Each division should have a healthy supply of roots.

Amend your parent (existing soil) with some Flowerland top soil or peat moss 50/50 and mulch the divisions in with some Flowerland mulch to stabilize soil temps and keep the newly planted divisions from heaving out of the ground in winter. Some fertilizer is a good idea too like Plant Tone or Bonide Root N’ Grow.