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How To Divide Your Perennials In The Fall – Create More Plants For Free!

Fall is the perfect time to divide your existing perennials – and can it ever pay big dividends for your plants, flowerbeds and you next year!

Not only does regular dividing play a key role in keeping flowerbeds more manageable, it can also help your plants to bloom more vigorously than ever. Dividing also has a wonderful additional benefit – it provides you with a whole slew of new transplants to fill your beds with more foliage and color than ever – and all for free!

Unfortunately, when perennials grow in the same space for too many years, their roots become crowded. When that occurs, the root-bound plants begin to have more and more difficulty drawing nutrients from the soil. Even worse, they struggle to retain and absorb moisture as well.

divide perennials in the fall - hosta
When perennials become too large, their roots can often suffer from overcrowding. Dividing plants on a regular basis can keep them healthy while also producing bigger and better blooms. It also gives you a lot of free plants!

All of these issues together can result in weaker foliage up top, and less energy for blooming. In fact, overcrowded plant foliage and root structure are usually the two main culprits when perennials fail to bloom.

The Advantages Of Fall Dividing – How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

That is exactly why dividing plants on a regular basis (usually every three to five years) is vital. It keeps a plant’s roots strong, healthy, and helps them more easily find nutrients as they grow.

But even more important, dividing allows you to create extra plants. And those extra plants can play a major role in helping to make maintaining your flowerbeds easier than ever.

One of the best ways to control weeds in your flowerbeds is by filling them with more plants! The tighter and more closely the foliage can grow, the less likely weeds and weed seeds can ever find a home. And there is no better way to fill your beds than with your own free perennial transplants! See: How To Eliminate Weeds In Your Flowerbeds For Good

Why Fall Is The Perfect Time For Dividing – How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

Late summer and early fall are the best times to dig up and divide a large majority of perennials. By digging plants up and dividing and transplanting in the cool Autumn air, it allows the new divisions plenty of time to settle in and establish their roots before winter sets in.

Although you can divide most perennials at any point of the growing season, fall really is the ideal time. Unfortunately, when you divide in the spring or summer, plants often can’t recover quickly enough to still bloom or fill out their foliage in the same growing season.

But with fall planting, perennials have enough time to establish their roots before going dormant for winter. By the following spring, the plants are over the shock of transplanting, and ready to grow right from the start.

dividing perennials - black eyed susan
As blooms begin to fade from your summer perennial plants, it is time for dividing! Plants like this black-eyed Susan can be divided and transplanted in the fall and be ready for a great growing season next spring.

When it comes to fall dividing, there are a few simple tips to follow that can make dividing and transplanting a breeze. With that in mind, here is a look at how to divide your perennials like a pro!

How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

Start by picking out the largest of your plants for dividing. Not only will bigger plants give you the most new transplants, they are also the plants most in need of division. Do not attempt to transplant any plants that show obvious signs of disease or have poor root structures.

Dig Around The Root Zone – How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

Always use a sharp spade or shovel to dig up plants. Dull blades can cut and injure root systems, where as a clean cut will heal much more quickly. Begin by digging a few inches beyond the outer edge of a plant’s root zone. In nearly all cases, the root zones will line up with the base of a plant’s foliage.

Dig around the entire plant and then lift up from the ground. Be sure to dig deep enough to remove the base of the roots. Don’t fret if you happen to slice off a few outer roots. Perennials can handle a bit of damage, but the more intact the roots, the better the chance of transplanting success.

One of the best hints of all when dividing is to turn your plants over before cutting them into new sections. Turn the plant over so that the foliage is facing down into the ground. This allows you to see the entire root structure and makes dividing a snap.

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Use a sharp shovel or a cutting tool such as a Hori-Hori knife and divide by cutting straight down through the root zone. The Hori-Hori work wonders with its serrated knife edge of making clean cuts through the toughest of perennial root systems.

If roots are really big and tough, you can use an axe to split. No matter what you use, the real key to success is to split each plant into even sections based upon the size of the root ball. Remember that the size of the new root ball will determine the size of the plant the following year.

Replanting Perennial Divisions – How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

Replant Divisions Quickly

Always replant your new divisions as quickly as possible. Plant foliage and their roots can dry out quickly. The faster you transplant, the more chance for success.

If you don’t have space, or are not sure where you will be placing the new divisions, pot the transplants up to use at a later date or put them into an open space in your garden. This can act as a holding bed, and allow the roots to develop and be ready for easy transplanting later.

When transplanting, dig the new hole two to three times the diameter and about three to four inches deeper than the size of the new root ball. This will allow plenty of loose soil space for the perennial to expand and set its roots quickly.

When planting, always add in generous amounts of compost to each hole. If no compost is available, use a good potting soil mix instead. This loose, nutrient-filled soil will help the roots to quickly establish before winter sets in.

Water Is The Key – How To Divide Perennials In The Fall

More than anything else, water is the biggest key to a transplant’s success. Water the roots well at planting time, and be sure to give the new divisions plenty of water through late fall.

how to divide perennials in the fall
The more you can fill your flowerbeds with plants, the less likely weeds can find a home. It also helps cut down on the cost of mulching!

Transplants may lose some or nearly all of their foliage in the dividing and transplanting process. This is normal and does not mean the root structure has died. Continue providing water two to three times a week. New growth should appear by the time fall sets in, and the plants will be ready to roll next spring.

Here is to dividing your perennials this fall, and to filling your flowerbeds with big foliage and color next year – all for free!

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