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If not cut apart and replanted or repotted on a regular basis, a bald spot will form in the center of the plant, leaving a donut of fresh growth around the edges. Dividing helps prevent this unsightly bald spot by encouraging vigorous new growth. It's also a great way to get free plants! The time to divide fall-blooming perennials is in early spring, so that they have plenty of time to recover before it's time for them to put on their flower show.
Even though dividing will be good for your plant in the long run, you are still digging it up and cutting it apart, which will not please the plant initially. To ensure that your plant is in the absolute best condition possible, water it deeply the day before you plan to divide. You should also prune back the plant by one third before dividing. This will decrease the amount of plant the about-to-be-shocked roots have to support. You should also prepare the new home of the divisions ahead of time so that the plants will not dry out while waiting to be replanted. This means digging holes and amending the soil as needed.
Now you're ready to really get started. Using a spade or shovel, slice all the way around the plant, a few inches beyond the foliage. Make sure to get your shovel at least 8-10 inches down into the soil. Once you've cut all the way around, use the shovel as a lever to lift the entire plant out the ground. You may have to loosen the roots' hold from several different spots before the plant will life out.
The easiest way to make two (or more) plants out of the one you just dug up is to place two pitchforks back-to-back into the center of the plant. Gently force the handles apart. You should see a trench forming in the middle of the plant, and you might hear some roots snapping. As you continue to push the pitch forks apart, two distinct halves should be created. To create four or more plants, simply repeat the process on each half of the plant. If you're dividing a small plant, you can do the same thing with two hand cultivators.
Replant your new plants in the holes or pots you prepared before you got started. Be sure to keep the soil line the same as it was before the plant was dug up. Keep the soil moist (but not soggy) until new growth appears. Then return to the plant's normal watering schedule. See, that wasn't too hard!