Dividing Perennials – an easier way

When a perennial is starting to outgrow its spot and is muscling others out of the way it is time to divide it.  The most common approach requires two garden forks to prize the lifted plant apart but what if you don’t happen to have enough forks to hand? Well there is a simple way to split your these plants as I will show you.

Dividing herbaceous perennials is an essential part of garden maintenance as it ensures plants don’t get above their station and the garden remains in balance however it can be hard work.  First you have to lift the plant, then you divide it and finally replant a smaller portion back to into its spot (and donating or re-planting the rest elsewhere). Lifting is often the hardest bit but dividing can be just as challenging. 

The most commonly mentioned method which you will see is to jab two forks (back to back) into the lifted plant and then bring them together so that the plant is levered apart.  The problem with this approach is firstly you need to have two forks to hand and secondly you need to have the arms of Mr Tickle to be able to reach both fork handles and bring them together!

So there is a much easier way of splitting a perennial which needs only one fork and normal length arms and that is to:

  1. Put the lifted plant on its side.
  2. Push your fork into where you want it to split.
  3. Put and keep your boot on one half.
  4. Lever the fork away from your boot. 
  5. Hey presto the plant will be split.

The pictures below show me doing this recently on some Daylilies.

Plant lifted and ready to be split
The plant is now on its side, the fork pushed in and my big old boot holding one side down as I lever the fork to split the plant
Hey presto – the plant is now split. Now I just need to work out what to do with the other half!

The approach works above well for plants that have quite fibrous root systems but isn’t so great for those with hard dense crowns or thick and tightly packed root systems.  For these I would adopt the same approach but instead of using a fork I use my lawn edging iron which has a nice sharp and straight blade. 

The photo below shows a sedum which has a very dense root system and needed splitting so I have the lawn edging tool ready for action.

This lifted Sedum ready to be split using the Lawn Edging Iron

Looking for more information on splitting your perennials then try the following:

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