How to Grow: Divide Perennial Flowers

Learn how to divide and care for your perennial flowers including information on which flowers to divide when and the proper way to divide common perennials such as daylilies and iris.


Hi, I’m Charlie Nardozzi of the National Gardening Association. The seasons winding down in our garden but there are still a few chores that need to be done. One of the things I want to talk to you about today is how to divide perennial flowers. If your perennials are not blossoming like they used to. If they’re getting overcrowded or if the center’s have died out, you might need to divide them. Perennials can be their own worst enemies. They grow so lushly and abundantly that they actually deplete their reserves and get overcrowded. That’s when the gardener needs to step in.

Dividing plants not only rejuvenates them and helps them flower better, it’s a great way to share favorite flowers with your friends and family. When to divide really depends upon where you are in the country. In cold winter areas it’s best to divide most perennials in the spring. That way they have the whole summer to get established. In hot summer areas it’s probably better to divide them in the fall. That way they can actually get established in the winter so that they’re all ready to go when the heat of the summer comes. Some perennials, such as day lilies, are really so tough that you can almost divide them any time as long as they’re not flowering of course. Then there are some perennials, such as peonies, that are very particular and they have to be divided in the fall. And then finally there are some perennials, such as lupins and poppies, that have tap roots that don’t like to be divided at all. It’s best to leave them where they are. Let me show you the steps in dividing a Siberian iris.

Ideally you want to choose a cool, cloudy day to divide your perennials that way there’ll be less transplant shock. Also, if the soil is not moist you might want to wet it before you work. That way it’ll dig them up easier. The first thing I like to do is actually cut back the foliage to about 6 inches tall and I usually use a hedge trimmer to do that. It’s really quick and really efficient. Now let’s dig it out.

There’s two main ways to dig up your clump. You can take the whole plant out of the ground and divide it into sections or you can take slices off it. I’m going to dig up the whole clump. Wow, this is a lot of work. We want to put it on a tarp so that I can see it better to divide it. Usually you want to look and see if there’s natural sections where you can actually pull it apart. If you can’t you’ll have to use a sharp saw or a knife to cut it into pieces. You’re going to want to cut your division into sections that are about six inches in diameter. Once you’ve got your division, cut off any broken or diseased roots. Now that it’s all cleaned up, it’s ready to be planted in a new location or put it in a pot to be given away to your friends later.

I’m going to replant this one.You want to plant your division in the same type of location it was originally with the same sun exposure same kind of soil. You want to plant it about the same depth, too, so it’s not too deep or too shallow. Mix in some soil around it and actually put some compost down to add a little fertility. Once you get it all tucked in and established again give a little shot of water and you’re all ready to go.

By dividing perennials you not only create a healthier garden you also create more plants for yourself and for others to give away.

Go here for more on dividing perennials.

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