Now that the snow is finally gone, all of us with gardens are anxiously looking for signs that our garden plants have made it through the winter.  Those first green shoots are the hope of lush growth and profuse flowers in the weeks to come.

Most flowering perennial plants (versus shrubs and trees) grow and flower best if dug up and divided into smaller plants every few years.  The process is pretty simple and, if planted with a bit of care and watered occasionally, success is almost assured.


Here's how to do it:

Over the next couple weeks, walk around your garden and determine which of your flowering perennial plants have grown too large.  A key sign of it being past time to divide is when the center of the plant clump begins to thin out and / or die, leaving the new, stronger growth around the outer perimeter of the clump looking best.  Otherwise, divide when the plant is getting too large for your garden or hasn't been divided for three to five years.  Early to mid-Spring is the best time to divide most plants.


Choose a day when the soil is damp or dry but not wet.  Wet soil is no fun to work in and you endanger compacting the soil around your plants, making them less likely to thrive.  Using a garden spade or garden fork, lift the entire clump, including all the roots, and put it aside where you can easily work on it.  

Using a sharp shovel or, for hostas and other plants with dense root masses, two garden forks back to back, cut or pull the clump apart into individual plants perhaps 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  Don't worry about damaging the roots.  These plants really want to live.  Provided the leaves have some root growth attached to them and are not allowed to dry out, they are likely to survive and thrive.   


Divide the clump into as many smaller plants as you can use in your garden.  Replant the divided plants so the soil comes up to the plant at the same level as it did on the original clump.  I like to fill the hole with water before I put the plant in so I know there is good moisture around the roots.   Firm down the soil around the plant, and water it well.  If you can, spread some compost / mulch around the plant to keep it cool and moist and make certain to keep its roots moist over the next couple weeks.   


Alternatively, you can pot up the divisions using Pro-Mix or other bagged soil mixtures.  Keep the potted-up plants moist and in a semi-shaded spot (no hot sun!) and they should last a number of weeks until you are ready to plant them.

The reward for your effort is many more plants that will grow and bloom much better over the next few years until it's time to divide them again.


And if you can't use them in your own garden? The Blue Hill Public Library Plant Sale would love to collect any leftover clumps of older perennials and pot them for our fundraiser on Saturday, May 23rd.  You will help the Library and receive a tax-deductible letter of thanks in return. 

Interested?  Questions? Contact us at or 374 5515 x 16.