October is a great time to divide perennials

One of my favourite things to do in the year is divide perennials in autumn. You can actually divide most perennials at any time, and spring and summer are good times for many while the plant is growing, but to give them the best chance autumn is my preferred moment. I enjoy dividing plants because it’s easy and one old favourite can suddenly become many, presenting a free opportunity to radically transform your garden. Today my chosen victim is this four year old Astrantia:

To start, I sliced through the middle of the plant with my trowel, trying to cut between growing points. Don’t worry about tough woody bits, use some force and chop away! You can always dig the entire plant up and divide but I found it easier just to dig out half of the clump.

I then set about mercilessly dividing the half I’d dug out into three further plants, being sure to cut between growing points. Protect the roots as much as possible so each little division has a good set of roots, keeping as much soil on as you can.

I could have divided the plant into about twenty smaller plants if I wanted to, however three new plants was enough and the bigger the piece, the bigger the plant next year.

The final step is to plant them where you want them or pot them up immediately and give them a soak of water. That’s it! Now wait until next year and marvel and the increased colour.

I divided this astrantia because it was becoming quite large and congested now it’s almost five years old and because I have other astrantia I don’t like as much. I removed those I don’t like – never hang onto plants you’re not keen on! – and replaced them with more of this one that I do.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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