How to Divide Perennials to Fill Your Garden With More Plants for Free

Save money in your garden and keep your plants healthy by dividing them regularly.

Perennial plants offer several advantages to your garden, such a beautiful flowers and the ability to return year after year in spring. And you can easily make more of a good thing by dividing your favorite perennials every two years or so. These divisions are perfect for adding to bare spots in your own garden or sharing with friends and neighbors. Plus, when perennials get overgrown and crowded, they often won't bloom as much. Dividing these plants will help reinvigorate their flower show. However, not all types of perennials appreciate being divided. Here's what you need to know to successfully divide your perennials.

dividing hosta plant with knife
Julie Maris Semarco

When to Divide Your Perennials

While you can divide most perennials any time from spring to fall, those two seasons are best. This is because dividing your perennials can be stressful on the plants—and they'll recover better from the shock in cool, moist conditions. That being said, if you want to divide your favorite perennials in summer, be sure to keep them well watered after separating them. As far as your plants go, wait to divide them until they're large enough to make several clumps out of them.

How to Divide Perennials

Perennials such as asters, hostas, and yarrow can be divided easily with no hassle. You can also divide perennial herbs in the garden to expand your harvest. All you need is a shovel and work gloves to get the job done. Follow these simple steps to reach healthy-looking perennials.

digging to divide and transplate daylily
Derek Fell

Step 1: Dig the Clump

Dig up the clump of perennials that will be divided. To do this, insert the shovel deep into the soil around the perimeter to loosen the roots and isolate the clump. You can even use a garden fork or spade to help separate the roots.

Test Garden Tip: Watering the perennial a couple of days before you dig it up will soften the soil and save you effort.

dividing daylilies with spade
Derek Fell

Step 2: Remove the Clump

Force your shovel or garden fork under the root ball and lever the ball up and down to loosen and position it on the shovel. Then, lift the shovel and root ball. Try to keep the root system as intact as you can. Once you dig the plant out of the ground, shake, wash, or brush any excess soil from around the root ball—this makes it easier to pull the clump apart.

divided plants on tray table
Derek Fell

Step 3: Separate the Crowns and Replant

Pry or cut apart individual crowns. Each clump needs to have sets of leaves and roots in order to grow. Then, replant the divisions promptly so the roots don't dry out. Plant at the same depth as before and water well. Cover the soil with mulch to help conserve moisture while your new divisions become established.

bleeding heart shade garden perennial
Peter Krumhardt

Leave These Be

While most perennials benefit from being divided every few years, there are a few perennials that thrive better if they are kept intact. Avoid dividing these varieties:

pink astilbe growing near stone wall
Tria Giovan

Divide Every 3-4 Years

Rule of thumb: Most perennials do best when divided every three to four years. When in doubt, this is the route you should take. These varieties include:

yellow herbaceous coreopsis tickseed
Rob Cardillo

Divide Every 2-3 Years

Some perennials need a little more attention when it comes to division. Divide these perennials every other or every third year to keep them performing at their best.

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