6 Steps for Dividing and Transplanting Perennials like a Pro

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6 Steps for Dividing and Transplanting Perennials like a Pro

If you’re really into gardening, you know that different plants have different needs depending on the season. Some plants require deep digging and fall-blooming, while others are more forgiving and can be planted or transplanted at any time. But why do some plants require division and transplanting? Well, it’s because they don’t like to stay in one place for too long. It’s not easy for them to keep growing and spreading if they’re not given the opportunity to move and explore new areas.

Dividing and transplanting perennials is a way to give your plants additional space and make it easier for them to thrive. It’s also a great way to rejuvenate older plants and keep them at their best. Timing is important when it comes to dividing and transplanting perennials. For example, if you’re dividing physostegia, it’s best to do it in early spring or late fall. And if you’re dividing hostas, you’ll want to wait until early spring when the new shoots are just starting to emerge.

Dividing perennials is not as difficult as it may sound. With a little TLC, you can successfully divide and transplant your plants. Start by gathering all the necessary tools and supplies, such as a shovel, pruners, and a wheelbarrow. It’s also helpful to have some extra pots or containers to hold the divided plants until you’re ready to plant them. Once you have everything you need, follow these steps to make the division process easier:

  1. Choose a spot in your garden where you want to transplant the divisions. Make sure the soil is well-drained and prepared for planting.
  2. Water the plant you’re going to divide a day or two before you plan to do the division. This will help the plant recover faster.
  3. Carefully dig around the plant to create a rootball. Dig deep and wide enough to get as many roots as possible.
  4. Once the rootball is out of the ground, use a clean and sharp tool to divide it into smaller sections. You can divide it in half, quarters, or even smaller, depending on the size of the plant and the desired outcome.
  5. Remove any dead or damaged foliage from the divisions and cut back the tops to reduce transplant shock.
  6. Plant the divisions in the prepared spot and water them well. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.
  7. Provide extra care for the newly transplanted divisions. This may include regular watering, mulching, and protecting them from extreme weather conditions.

Remember, not all perennials can be divided successfully, so make sure to do your research before attempting division. Some plants, like candytuft and catmint, don’t respond well to division and may not survive. Other plants, like larger shrubs, may require a more advanced division technique. But whatever plants you choose to divide, with a little patience and a lot of love, you can create a thriving garden full of beautiful and healthy perennials.

“Sometimes, the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tiptoe if you must, but take the step.” – Unknown

Dividing and Transplanting Established Perennials

Dividing and transplanting established perennials is a great way to keep your garden looking its best and to propagate your favorite plants. It is an important task that helps maintain the health and vigor of your plants, while also allowing you to share them with others. Here are some reasons why you may need to divide and transplant your perennials:

  • Overcrowding: Perennials can become overcrowded over time, with multiple plants growing too close together. Dividing them helps create space and prevents competition for water and nutrients.
  • Size control: Some perennials, like peonies or catmint, can become quite large. Dividing them allows you to keep them at a manageable size and prevents them from taking over your garden.
  • Blooming cycle: Perennials that bloom at different times of the year can be divided and transplanted so that they are grouped together according to their blooming period. This way, you can create beautiful displays of color throughout the entire growing season.
  • Plant health: Dividing and transplanting perennials also gives you the opportunity to inspect the root system. If you notice any signs of disease or pest infestation, you can remove the affected parts and ensure the overall health of the plant.

Dividing and transplanting established perennials is best done in spring or fall, when the plants are not actively blooming. It’s important to know the specific needs of each perennial before dividing it. Some perennials, like irises, have a shallow root system and can be easily divided by simply breaking the clumps apart. Others, like hostas or physostegia, have deeper root systems and may require more effort to divide.

When dividing perennials, it’s crucial to dig deep and transplant the entire rootball to limit stress on the plant. Make sure to water the plant well before dividing to help the soil cling to the roots. Once divided, each section should have enough roots to support its growth. Transplant the divisions at the same level they were originally planted, and water them thoroughly after planting to help them settle in.

Dividing and transplanting perennials may seem like a daunting task, but with a little know-how and some TLC, it can be quite easy. By dividing and transplanting your established perennials every few years, you’ll keep your garden looking great and have extra transplants to share with friends and neighbors. So why not give it a try this season?

1 Gather the right tools

Before you begin dividing and transplanting your perennials, it’s important to gather the right tools. Having the necessary tools on hand will make the process much easier and more efficient. Here are some tools you’ll need:

  • Garden gloves: Protect your hands while working with the plants.
  • Shovel or spade: Use a shovel or spade to carefully dig up the plant from the soil.
  • Trowel: A trowel is useful for loosening the soil around the rootball.
  • Water: Make sure to water the plants well before dividing and after transplanting to reduce stress.
  • Pruning shears: Trim back any overgrown or dead foliage before dividing.
  • Divider tool: This specialized tool helps to separate the plant’s root system into multiple divisions.
  • Planting/transplanting mix: Use a high-quality soil mix to backfill the newly divided plants.

By gathering these tools in advance, you’ll be well-prepared to divide and transplant perennials such as black-eyed Susan, bee balm, phlox, and yarrow. Remember to check with your local gardening center or consult gardening resources for any specific tools or changes needed for different perennial varieties.

2 Identify the plant to be divided

Before you start dividing and transplanting perennials, it’s important to identify the specific plant you want to work with. This step will help you determine the best time to divide, the level of care required, and any additional information specific to that plant.

Take the time to do some research on the plant and gather all the necessary information. Look for any dead or unhealthy areas that may indicate the need for division. Some hybrids were bred to be more clump-forming, making division easier, while others may have a more spreading growth habit.

Whether it’s a simple species or a fancy hybrid, the process remains largely the same. Dig up the plant from its current location and expand the root ball if necessary. You can do this by gently digging around the outer edges of the plant and loosening the soil. If you’re working with a larger plant, it may be easier to divide it into smaller sections before transplanting.

Some plants, like coneflower or hostas, can be successfully transplanted even if they have a taproot. Others, like yarrow or physostegia, have a fibrous root system that makes division easier. Consider the specific characteristics of the plant you’re working with.

Plan ahead and make sure you have all the necessary tools and materials for the task. This includes a shovel or garden fork for digging, extra soil for backfilling, and water to help the transplanted plants settle in their new location.

Remember, dividing and transplanting perennials is a great way to keep your garden healthy and thriving. Plus, it allows you to expand your collection or share plants with other gardeners. By mastering this skill, you’ll be able to make changes to your garden with confidence and enjoy the benefits of successful plant division.

3 Know the best time to divide

Knowing the best time to divide your perennials is key to ensuring their successful transplantation and continued growth. Here are some tips to help you determine when to divide different types of perennials:

  • Spring: Many perennials, such as coneflower and black-eyed Susans, thrive when divided in the spring. This is because they’re just starting to come out of dormancy, and dividing them at this time allows them to establish new roots and grow stronger.
  • Early summer: Some perennials, like hostas and daylilies, are best divided in early summer while they’re actively growing. Dividing them during this time gives the transplants enough time to establish before the temperature gets too hot.
  • Late summer or fall: Certain perennials, including irises and peonies, can be divided in late summer or early fall. Dividing them during this period allows them to focus on establishing their root systems during the cooler months, leading to a more successful growth spurt the following season.
  • Dormancy: Some perennials, such as baptisia and physostegia, are best divided when they’re dormant in late fall or winter. Dividing them during their dormancy period gives them time to recover before the growing season begins again.

By dividing your perennials in the appropriate season, you’ll ensure that they have the best chance of survival and continued growth. It’s important to gather all the necessary tools, such as a shovel or garden spade, to make the process easier. When dividing perennials, dig around the plant to loosen the soil and lift the entire root ball. Then, shake off excess soil and carefully separate the plant into smaller clumps. Discard any dead or diseased sections and replant the healthy divisions in freshly prepared soil. Water the transplants regularly to keep them hydrated and help them establish new roots.

Dividing and transplanting perennials is a simple and great way to rejuvenate your garden. By knowing the best time to divide, you’ll ensure the success of your transplants and enjoy beautiful, flowering perennials for years to come.

✿ Read More: Gardening Tips and Advice.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.