Gardening Columnist Maggie L. Moor-Orth helps readers divide their plants now for an early growth spurt this coming spring.


This summer was one of the hottest and driest that I remember and I lost several of my favorite plants in my gardens. Fortunately, I have other perennials growing in other areas that I can divide and transplant to replace the ones that died. Now is the perfect time to divide perennials so that they will have time to get established before extreme cold temperatures arrives and then next spring they will have a head start on growth.

Divide any perennial that looks too crowded, ones that may have dead growth in the center of the clump or have had small flowers during the current growing season, have scant and poor foliage growth or plants growing too densely.

When dividing perennials, there are two basic methods. The method to use depends on the size and density of the plant and the number of divisions or “new” plants you want. For older, denser plants that have not been divided for several years, it is best to dig up the entire plant.

Do this by using a sharp pointed shovel and dig down deep on all four sides of the plant. Don’t place the shovel too close, maybe about 6 inches away from the plant. Using the shovel, raise the entire plant out of the ground.

If possible, lift the plant about 1 foot off the ground and drop it. Some gardeners like to wash off some of the soil from the roots before selecting divisions. Loosening the root mass should make it easier to pull apart the individual plants.

If this is not possible with your hands, you may find it necessary to cut the root sections with the shovel into three or five plants or divisions. Each division will contain old stems, several vegetative lateral shoots and a healthy, vigorous root system.

To replant, cut the top growth down to about 6 inches of where the plant was previously growing and replant. Be sure it is at the same depth that it was growing originally. Don’t forget to put in plant markers so next spring when they begin their early growth, you will know what you had planted.

The second basic method involves dividing perennials when you just want to establish some new plants. Using a long pointed trowel or narrow shovel, push it down into a section of the perennial to remove several side shoots of the plant.

Then, using the shovel or trowel, force it down and toward the center of the plant. Continue to do this until the original plant is thinned out and you have the size you want. Again, cut off the top growth, replant at the original growing height and label new plants.

Either method is an easy way to increase your perennial plants regardless of why you may want more plants.

For more information on planting perennials, call the Kent County Extension office at 857-6426 or 730-4000.