One of the more charming oddities of gardening is that the more you do it, the fewer plants you have to buy. Some of the most proficient, experienced and, well, elderly gardeners I know will proudly exclaim that they can’t remember the last time they bought a plant – yet their gardens look fantastic.
It’s a twisted logic that novice growers struggle to understand and less-new-ones aspire to. Buying new plants, especially snazzy, in-bloom, ready-to-roll numbers from the garden centre, is a habit many of us shrug off after a few years. Once things get established, there’s a kind of challenge to garden as frugally as possible.
Lifting and dividing plants is a big part of this. After a certain period – two or three years for some perennials, half that for others – plants get large enough to cut into chunks and grow each chunk (or division) on as a separate plant elsewhere in your plot.
Not only do you get new plants for nothing, you get new plants that you know thrive in your soil and are of the same variety that already exists there. Another sometimes hard-to-swallow horticultural truth is that gardens look better when they have a smaller plant palette on repetition than when they include one of everything. Dividing plants helps that along massively.
It’s important to do this when plants are not actively growing. For plants that have flowered in the summer, the following spring is a good time, especially if the previous autumn was wet, because the plants will be about ready to put on a growth spurt. Autumn also works, as many plants are