Transplanting perennial plants is a great way to expand your garden at no extra cost. I’m sharing how and why to divide and transplant perennial plants, and the most common types found in most gardens.
Perennial VS Annual Plants
When you begin gardening, or even if you’ve only ever perused the garden center at your local hardware store, you’ve heard the terms annual and perennial. The meaning is pretty basic, but can make a huge difference when planning your garden.
A perennial plant is one that comes back each year. They can live for three or more growing seasons, and tend to mulitply and spread over time. Perennials are a great, lower maintenance option in the garden because they don’t need to be replanted each year, but they do tend to have a shorter flowering season than annuals. I love to plant a combination of perennials, and annuals in order to create a full and varied cottage style garden.
Annual plants live for only one growing season, and need to be replanted each year. You might be thinking “Why would I want to plant something that only lasts one year when I can plant something that lasts several?”. I thought the same thing when I first began gardening, but annuals have their benefits too. They tend to have a longer flowering season, and offer a wide variety of colors. I love to plant a combination of perennials and annuals in order to create a full and layered cottage-style garden.
Types of Perennial Plants
Perennials fall into a few main categories, and require different care depending on the type.
The most common type of tuberous plant in my area is the daylily. I’ll never forget when I was first married and we were brooooke. I was on my own for the first time, with a place of our own, and all I wanted was to nest and make it a home…which presented a bit of a challenge with no money. Luckily, daylilies grow wild in almost every roadside ditch in the south, so I snuck out to the road and dug up a few clumps. I brought them back to the house, divided them up, and replanted them all around the porch. Perhaps that’s where the idea for this post really originated.
A true bulb is a complete plant in a tiny storage system housed completely underground. Examples are: daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. These types of plants are generally cold hardy, and can be planted in the fall to overwinter, before flowering in the spring.
Rhizomes have a bulb-like root system that grows horizontally just under the soil’s surface. A great example of a rhizome is ginger, which I desperately want to add to my garden this year!
Corms are pretty similar to bulbs, but differ in that their center is solid. They are round and flat with a new corm developing at the end of the season at the base of the old one. Crocus is an example of a corm.
Reasons to Divide Perennials
One of the beautiful benefits of perennials is that they spread! But this can be a double-edged sword too. As they spread, they have the potential to choke out other plants and overcrowd your garden space. You may need to divide your perennials if they are overtaking other plants, or if the perennial plants are beginning to look unhealthy. By dividing them, you give them more space and encourage new growth.
How to Transplant Perennials
The general rule is that if plants flower in the spring, they should be divided and transplanted in the fall. If a plant flowers in late summer to early fall, it can be divided and transplanted in the spring. Now, that being said, I am the biggest rule breaker when it comes to gardening. I have divided and transplanted all manner of plants in both spring and fall, with generally great results. I just avoid doing it in the dead of summer and winter.
The best way to divide or transplant a perennial is to wait until the foliage has turned yellow. This way you can still see what plant you’re working with, but aren’t digging it in peak bloom. (In other words, don’t do what I did in the video below.) Place a trowel, or in my case your child’s short shovel because that’s all you had in the car when the mood struck you to dig these up and film it, and place them deep below the bulb. Lift the entire bulb system, then divide the plant into the size clusters that you want for your new planting area.
I’ve given you a good general overview of how to divide and transplant perennials, but my best suggestion is to research the specific plant you are working with and learn its needs. Then, if you’re like me, go for it even if it isn’t the ideal situation and hope for the best. So far, winging it in the garden has worked out for me.
Perennial Plants That Can Be Divided and Transplanted
- Ornamental Grasses
- Lemon Balm
Fruits and Vegetables
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