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Dividing Perennials

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Dividing Iris

Winter may still be hanging on, but if you’re anything like us, you’re just itching to get back out in the garden, right?  Since one of the earliest tasks for gardeners is dividing perennials, we wanted to pass on our tips for this early spring task for all you eager green thumbs who’ll be out there soon.  Dividing your perennials should be completed after the ground thaws (so you can dig), but before they’ve begun really growing for the season (a couple inches of new growth or less).  So grab your sharp spade and read on!

1. Know your plants.

Identify which perennials are which in your garden so you know how and when to divide them.  Some can be split easily, like daylilies, while others like creeping phlox are quite a bit more difficult.  Do your research and figure out your perennials’ root structure so you can divide them properly (by splitting or pulling apart, etc.)

2. Divide during the dormant time.

Not to be over-dramatic, but dividing perennials during their growth time is almost like performing surgery without anesthesia.  To avoid causing undue stress and shock to your plants, get this task done early before they’ve begun really pushing their growth.

3. Take the entire plant out, then divide.

If you do this, you’ll be able to put a split portion back in the center of its growth area, rather than leaving a misshapen piece too far to one side.  Plus, then you can divide it evenly, or in the case of bulb- & rhizome-rooted plants, pull it apart easily.

4. Take stock of the weather.

Again, to reduce stress on your perennials, divide them in cool weather, and set them in the shade if you aren’t immediately putting them back in the ground — you don’t want the root ball to dry out.  Divide perennials growing in sunny areas first since their ground will warm up sooner, causing them germinate faster than their shady-growing companions.

5. Treat them like a new plant.Bonide Plant Starter

Add compost, additional soil and perhaps even fertilizer to divided perennials.  Plant Starter is a great fertilizer option since it promotes root growth, which is where the plant will be stressed.  Water them well during the beginning of the season as they root in to their new homes.

And finally…

6. Just divide as you feel needed.

If the garden bed is crowded for your likes, go ahead and divide a few perennials.  Most will only need dividing every couple of years (if that), so choose a few that you recall being large last year and start there.  Some perennials can be divided in the late fall as well, so don’t worry if you don’t get to all of them this spring or if you’ve forgotten exactly where things are in your garden.  If you have any questions, of course feel free to stop in and ask away.  Here’s hoping the weather lets us all get out into the garden sooner rather than later!

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