That’s where I’m at right now.
I had no intention, none whatsoever of dividing my hosta plants this fall. But to make way for the new patio I had to.
Not knowing the day or the hour the patio is coming is stressing me out of my mind.
The new patio is slated to go over my perennial/bulb beds. Any plants I want to save have to be dug out pronto or get paved over.
So to save those cherished hostas I got to work. Tom helped quite a bit, too!
I will say, many of them had gotten too large, so it was timely pursuit. But with three young kids, I’ve become a “needs must” type of gal.
Since the plants had to be moved out of that location, it was the time to divide up the larger plants before moving them to their new home.
This is the insider scoop on plant division!
Shoulda….coulda… when to hack off a piece of plant
After all, you are taking a spade and hacking off a chunk of a beloved plant.
If you aren’t careful instead of getting two or three plants, you are going to end up with none at all if you hack away without discretion.
When you dig up a perennial, you’ll notice that it fits into five basic root types: roots that form clumps or offsets, surface roots, underground running roots, taproots or woody roots.
Bear this in mind when dividing and conquering those perennial plants! Let it be known that not all perennials weren’t meant to be hacked away with a spade.
Some perennials, like bleeding hearts, columbines, coral bells, hellebores, forget-me-not, lady’s mantle, lamb’s ears, primroses, speedwell, stonecrop, violets, yarrow and a few others are better off broken apart gently with your fingers.
So put down the spade, please!
If you’ve had a spell of heavy rain, then it just might be a sign that it’s time to divide and replant.
Wet topsoil is easier to break up and more manageable when transplanting.
The ground is softer for not only digging up the plants but transplanting to the new hole. No sweat!
I failed to give my Russian sage enough water prior to relocating and quite honestly, it’s not doing great.
Fingers crossed that it somehow manages to rebound and comes back next year. Live and learn!
This practice gives the new roots a place to expand and spread and more able to get established down and deep into the ground.
If your soil isn’t fertile, it’s good to add compost and a handful of worm casings into the hole to nourish roots giving the plant a quick boost.
And it’s never a bad idea to add some fresh garden soil in and around the hole when replanting.
Then wait a few weeks (for spring transplants only), until the plant is more established to add a little fertilizer like the Dr. Earth brand.
For fall transplants, I like to wait to fertilize in spring as not to encourage stem and leaf growth. For now, our focus is deep, strong roots!
Dig a trench around the clump, and cleanly sever the roots.
Then cut at an angle down and under the clump and all around the perimeter of the plant. Dig and angle until you can pry the plant out of the hole.
For larger plants, you may have to first dig the trench then slice straight down through the center of the plant, halving or even quartering the plant clump before cutting and lifting it out of its hole.
Dig a hole the same depth as the plant was previously. Failure to follow this step will encourage root asphyxia.
Now is also the time to consider the sun/shade issue.
Was your plant happy with the amount of sun it was getting before? Did it like its current location or would another spot suited it better?
Does the plant need more sun? Less sun? Would it prefer more acidic soil? Less acidic soil? If any adjustments need to be made, now is your chance!
Smaller sections grow more vigorously and tend to produce stronger, longer-lasting blooms.
Take a hosta, for example. Divide it into about seven growing points to reap the best results.
Perennials tend to multiple exponentially~ just one stem is likely to triple or quadruple itself within a short timeframe.
Be generous when plant sharing because if you halve an overgrown clump this year, it will more than double in a season and need dividing again next year!
Don’t allow a root tip to go up rather than down to the ground. And don’t let roots curl back around themselves just to stuff them into an undersized hole.
This suppresses the plant’s natural regrowth mechanisms! Dig a bigger hole!
Root tip growth is partly regulated by chemicals flowing down from the tips of leafy stems to the roots.
Since gravity is involved, if you plant a root tip up and it wants down, the normal flow is interrupted not allowing the root tip to grow as strong as it could.
This keeps those roots cool and moist.
Store them in a bucket or box in a cool, shaded place, such as a garage and cover them with newspaper to slow moisture loss.
Sprinkle water to dampen the newspaper if the roots seem dry during their “hold” time.
If worse comes to worse, and they do dry out, just soak them in a bucket of water for an hour or so prior to transplanting.
No bucket would have been big enough for my perennials so I stole my sons pink kiddie pool. Room for all!
Keep your eyes peeled for early signs of trouble: like when the center of the plant has smaller leaves, fewer flowers, and weaker blooming stalks than the outer edges.
Or, when the plant runs out of growing room on its edges and has nowhere to go but into adjacent plants.
Would you want to go through a major surgery if you had a massive head cold or the flu? Nope.
Your plants feel the same way. They’d rather recover their strength before being divided and moved.
Only keep the healthiest pieces of the plant. Watch for discolored stems and eroded crowns and roots and chuck those bits into your compost bin.
Most plants don’t want to be moved in the heat of July. But if you get a hot stretch in spring or fall lasting a few days, that’s not the time to divide and transplant either.
Wait for the weather to cool down and then water, water, water before you move plants.
Why spring or fall?
Spring because that’s the time plants are just starting to emerge. Fall because plants are starting to prepare for dormancy.
I prefer fall for transplanting over spring because the plants have more time to set new roots before winter. September is my preferred month but early October is okay, too.
The fertilizer solution will likely increase the salinity of the soil and take a harsh toil on the pups. They are just not ready for fertilizer!
Wait a few weeks to a month or more before even considering to fertilize.
Read the directions carefully on the package. Don’t over-fertilize either! That’s worse than not fertilizing at all!
If you remove a wheelbarrow full of perennials, the rule of thumb is to put a wheelbarrow full of compost back into that site before replanting.
This amendment will renew the soil increasing fertility, drainage and air circulation.
You’ll even drive away a few unwanted pests!
And I always add a handful of worm casings (worm poop!) for a big, bonus spin!
If you notice flowers forming right after division, cut them off to allow all the energy to go into forming roots.
Focus on your roots and you’ll reap the benefits of flowers down the road. But I get it…cutting off the buds is hard!