If dividing your perennials is one of the fall landscape tasks that you just didn’t get to before winter descended upon us, fear not. It’s ok to do it in the spring.
However, you don’t want to run right out and begin dividing perennials now. Right now, the soil is either frozen or muddy, neither of which is workable. I suggest you put it on your to-do list for when spring actually arrives. You will have better success when the soil is plantable. You’ll be able to tell its ready when you can take a handful of soil, squeeze it and little or no water drains from your hand.
Dividing or splitting is one of the best methods to propagate perennials. Each perennial you divide yields three new plants, and all it costs you is a few minutes of work. The process also keeps perennials from taking over your whole yard and maintains the original look of your beds. Here’s how it’s done:
• Lay a tarp or piece of plastic on the ground next to your perennial bed.
• Select those perennials that have grown too large and spread out too much for the space.
• With a sharp spade, dig up the whole perennial(s) you plan to split and lay it on the tarp.
• Using your sharp spade, pruners, a saw or any sharp tool that you feel comfortable with, cut the rootball in half. Then cut each half in half so you have four individual plants.
• Return one section to the hole. Backfill, tamping about halfway through the process to remove any air pockets. Finish backfilling, tamp, water and mulch.
• Plant the other three plants elsewhere or find them a new home.
You may have places in your own yard that would make a good home for the remaining perennials from your splitting operation. If not, they make nice gifts for your gardening friends. One or more of your local non-profit organizations that sponsor spring plant sales would also appreciate your donating the split perennials to the sale.
You may find that you prefer splitting perennials in spring, rather than fall. That way you, or the recipients of the extra plants, don’t have to overwinter them. They can plant them, or sell them, as soon as they are received. You may prefer not to split perennials at all, in which case, we have landscape professionals who would be happy to do it for you.