Suppose you have a few empty spots in your garden that you want to fill with perennials, bulbs or grasses. You run to the nursery and buy more plants, right?
Not necessarily. You may already have plants that you enjoy and would like to spread around. Why not propagate them on your own?
Perennials, bulbs and grasses come back every year, and they often reproduce on their own through reseeding.
But if your plants don’t reseed, don’t worry. There are other means for propagating them, such as by taking cuttings and rooting them, or by division.
Rooting cuttings requires skill and patience. Division doesn’t. I like division.
You can divide grasses, bulbs and a slew of perennials, such as agastache, bee balm, coneflower, penstemon, catmint, candytuft, veronica, yucca, bleeding heart, coneflower, dianthus, Joe Pye weed, sedum and Shasta daisies, just to name a few.
But there are also perennials that don’t divide well. They’re typically plants with large taproots, such as prairie winecups and wild indigo (Baptisia australis), or plants with several stems rising from a single crown, such as peony.
University of Minnesota Extension offers an outstanding worksheet on individual perennials with specifics on when and how to divide each one.
So, what’s the process for dividing? It’s basically the same, whether you’re dividing perennials, bulbs or grasses.
Step 1. Dig holes for where you want your new plants to go after you’ve divided the mother perennial. Once the mother perennial is out of the ground, it’s important to replant the chunks quickly so roots don’t dry out.
Step 2. Clear mulch away from the mother perennial and carefully dig up the rootball, preserving as many roots as possible.
Step 3. Separate the rootball into two or more chunks, making sure that each chunk has plenty of roots attached. Sometimes the rootball will fall into pieces on its own. Other times, you’ll have to saw it apart.
Step 4. Place each chunk into its pre-dug hole and backfill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost, in most cases. For plants that prefer lean soil, leave out the compost.
Step 5. Water the new plants and add mulch. I also water after mulching to help hold the mulch in place.
One more thing: Don’t divide plants when they’re in bloom. The need to use their energy for establishing new roots, not for producing flowers.
Besides giving you more plants for your money, division is actually good for the health of your plants. Why? Because the new plants have more space for roots to grow, soak up nutrients from the soil, and absorb water.
Spring is an ideal time for dividing most plants. Why not give a try soon?