The Q&A Archives: How Do I Split And Transplant Perrenials?

Question: I recently bought a farmhouse with a beautiful perrenial flower garden that I was told was planted approx. 4 years ago. Some of the flowers (like the iris) seem to be so large that I think I can split the plant up and transplant them in my mother's garden. However, I don't understand how because I don't know how to dig and split them and secondly I don't know how deep to transplant them into my mother's garden - I know that every flower bulb has a certain depth to plant initially but does this matter when I am transplanting? Also, I don't know the names of all of the flowers to find out more information in regard to transplanting and splitting- is this important? I think I read that some perrenials do not do very well when they are split.

Answer: It sounds like you have a lovely garden. It is true that each type of perennial has its own requirements, not just for division or splitting but also for planting preferences. Since you have so many different types, you might want to look at a book or two for basic information and also for variety by variety care recommendations. Once you have identified each plant you will be able to determine the best time of year and method for division -- if indeed that is even recommended for the plant in question -- some plants, such as peonies and baptisia, are actually best left in place indefinitely. Here are some books you might find helpful:

"Perennials for Dummies" by Marcia Tatroe ISBN 0764550306; "Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials" by Ellen Phillips and C. Colston Burrell ISBN: 0875965709; and "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden : Planting & Pruning Techniques" by Tracy Disabato-Aust, Steven M. Still ISBN: 0881924148.

Also, although many plants can be divided or transplanted in the fall, the vast majority can be moved in the spring with equally good results and in some cases is preferred. This allow you plenty of time to do your research, prepare your soil in new planting areas, and learn about the plants before you start moving them.

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