Divide and Conquer: How to Propagate Perennials

Many perennials outgrow their space or lose vigor with age. Revive plants by dividing them when dormant and replanting. 

Overlay Labeling for Summer Perennial Garden

Overlay Labeling for Summer Perennial Garden

An overlay is used to identify perennials used in a sunny summer garden.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Materials Needed

  • garden fork
  • two garden spades
  • trimming shears

Step 1: Lift Plant

Carefully Lift Plant in One Clump with Garden Fork

Carefully Lift Plant in One Clump with Garden Fork

Lift bulbs from the group above just after they finish flowering. Use a garden fork to lift the clumps, taking care not to damage the outer bulbs. Gently shake off excess soil as clump is removed.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Most perennials need dividing every two or three years, but some grow more vigorously than others, requiring frequent division, while others flower better when congested, are slower growing, or resent disturbance. Dividing perennials is a useful way to propagate them. Carefully lift the plant, using a fork. Take care not to damage the roots as you do so. Gently shake off excess soil as you remove the clump.

Step 2: Separate Plants

Divide Larger Clumps with Garden Spade

Divide Larger Clumps with Garden Spade

Divide large clumps of bulbs by using a garden spade.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Separate plants by inserting two spades back-to-back in the center of the clump and pushing them away from each other to split the mound.

Step 3: Divide Clumps

Larger Clumps Divided By Gently Pulling Apart

Larger Clumps Divided By Gently Pulling Apart

Work on each clump, dividing them by hand, first into smaller clumps, then into individual bulbs.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Divide the larger clumps into smaller, more manageable pieces using your hands. Discard any unhealthy-looking sections, and pull out any weeds.

Step 4: Trim Growth

Trim Away Old Growth and Replant in New Spot

Trim Away Old Growth and Replant in New Spot

Remove dead or diseased material from around the bulbs, and discard any which look unhealthy. Replant the bulbs as they were originally, in soil or in grass, at the same depth that they were before being lifted. Firm the soil around them and water.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Trim away any old top growth, and replant the newly divided sections into their new positions at the same depth as before. Firm the soil around the roots well.

Next Up

How to Divide Perennials

Select a healthy plant and water it a few hours before lifting to moisten the roots.

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How to Propagate with Softwood Cuttings

Softwood cuttings are taken from soft, new growth at the tips of nonflowering shoots, produced in spring and early summer. Most root in six to eight weeks. Softwood shoots wilt quickly; take cuttings early in the day before the sun gets hot.