Dividing Perennials

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I had a really good go at dividing my overgrown perennial plants last autumn… then I got rained off. So there are still one or two big clumps of plants that need my attention now. It’s not too late.

Dividing perennials in autumn is probably best. It gives them a chance to establish a good healthy root system throughout winter. Roots continue to grow even though temperatures fall dramatically. In spring the plant bursts into growth producing luscious new leaves and flower buds.

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Dividing perennials in early spring is easier. The weather is usually warmer, it’s more pleasant to be outside and what’s more you can actually see the new shoots. That makes it so much easier to divide the clump into good sized pieces each with several fat buds.

How do you tell which plants are ready for dividing?
Usually all the vigorous new growth is at the edge of the plant and the middle looks much weaker with fewer buds. There may even be a space in the centre of each clump with bare earth where the original plant was several years ago. That’s quite normal. Nothing lives forever!

I usually aim for at least five good buds per clump. You can use a garden fork, a border spade or a sharp knife to divide the roots.
For tough roots I often use a sturdy old bread knife.

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Today I divided a big clump of Peonies. I love Peonies. They don’t flower for very long but their flowers are so beautiful I just can’t resist them. I grow several cultivars in shades of white, pale pink, deep pink and red which seems to help stagger the flowering period.

As you can see from the photos each new clump has plenty of buds and root. I’m planting them back at the same level with the crowns of the plants close to the surface. Some say that you should not disturb Peonies at all because they will sulk and may not flower for years.
I have never had a problem with dividing and transplanting. Perhaps because I make sure that they are not buried too deeply. Perhaps because I always give them a good feed and plenty of water to help settle them in. Who knows?


It’s hard to believe that something that looks so woody and stiff now can produce something as beautiful as these flowers in May and June. If you don’t already grow peonies then give them a whirl.
I can thoroughly recommend them.   Happy Gardening   Gillian 🙂