How to Divide Perennials and Expand Your Garden for Free

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

Perennial plants offer your garden several advantages, including beautiful flowers and the ability to return year after year—and you can easily make more of a good thing by dividing your favorites every two years or so. Dividing is perfect for filling in bare spots in your garden or for sharing with friends and neighbors.

Also, when perennials are overgrown and crowded, they often won't bloom as much, so dividing will help reinvigorate the flower show. However, not all types of perennials appreciate being divided. Here's what you need to know for success.

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. Dividing 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 favorites in summer, wait until they're large enough to be divided into several clumps, and keep them well watered once you've separated 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 to expand your harvest. All you need to get the job done is a shovel and work gloves. 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 leaves and roots in order to grow. Replant the separated clumps promptly so the roots don't dry out. Plant them at the same depth as before and water well. Cover the soil with mulch to help conserve moisture while your newly divided plants 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 that thrive better if they're kept intact. Avoid dividing these varieties:

pink astilbe growing near stone wall
Tria Giovan

Divide Every 3 to 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 to 3 Years

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

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