Dividing perennials in the fall

I have some daylilies that are getting a little too snug in their bed and crowding each other out. It’s time to divide them for some breathing room – and to have new plants for another spot in the yard or to share. Plants that bloom in spring and early summer such as daylilies, phlox, coreopsis, daisies, and irises can be divided in the fall.

Bob Polomski is an extension horticulturist at Clemson University. He says perennials are usually divided every three-to-five-years, or when they start to crowd themselves into non-flowering clumps of leaves and roots.

"It’s important to go ahead and divide them knowing that in the center, it looks like the roots have all matted together to form a solid mass," says Polomski. "You need to focus on the outside and remove those plants and then replant them. And, I would try to replant them at least 6”-12” apart."

Polomski recommends moistening the soil before you lift out the plants. He says a spading fork is his digging tool of choice because it minimizes the amount of damage that you may be doing to the roots.

If you have two spading forks, what might be a tough job becomes easier.

"Take two spaded forks back-to-back and you push them together, and they easily slide apart that mess of fibrous roots. And so it’s a nice easy way of separating some of the thick, fibrous-rooted perennials," he says. "With others, you really need to get down on your hands and knees and just tease them apart."

Divide your plants at least four-to-six-weeks before the first freeze so they have time to get settled in. Replant them as soon as you can at the same depth they were originally, water well, and add mulch.

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