We have some some Hostas that have gone past big into gargantuan. Can
we separate these into two or more plants and then replant the second
plant somewhere else? Is timing important or can I do it now.
It's a good time . Fall is actually a better time, but a bit more
difficult because the foilage is large. In the spring, when they're just
emerging, the foilage is out of the way. If it's early enough (you don't
state your location), and only the first set of leaves has hardened off
(and the second set is beginning to appear, you won't have any new roots to
worry about. Soaking the ground all around the plant will make the soil
much more pliable and forgiving on the pulling roots.
Lift them out with a fork, rather than a shovel (starting well out from the
base -- at least a foot if it's a large hosta). The roots grow from the
tip, so if you damage or sever one of the long roots, it won't branch as
other perennial roots do. The less damage you do, the easier on the plant,
and the quicker it will recover. =)
Once you have the clump out of the ground, place it on the ground and rinse
the soil off. This will make it much easier to see the natural divisions.
Gently spread the roots out, and with a sharp knife cut the crown in half
(or thirds), staying along the natural divisions as much as possible. Just
try to cut only the crown, and not damage the roots. You may be able to cut
half-way through the crown, and pry the rest apart with your hands. If you
can't pull them apart, cut a little deeper and try again.
Plant them as soon as possible to prevent the roots from drying out. Plant
them at their original level (or slightly higher) in the soil. Water them
The above method is more time-consuming, but will result in better looking
plants /this/ season, than simply plunging a sharp spade through the center
of the crown. That will work, but it may be next year before the plant
looks it's best again.
. This is probably more a decision based on aesthetics. At the end of
the growing season, when they're already looking like crap, it doesn't
matter as much if they're a bit stressed. They'll go dormant anyway. The
drawback to doing it at that time is you need to be careful of the weather.
The divisions will still need to be kept fairly wet, and a local drought
could screw that all up. The plus to doing it about a month before your
first frost is that that is the time they're putting on more rapid root
So, you see, there's good and bad about dividing them, no matter the
season. If you're careful, and think about what's actually happening with
and around the plant, you'll probably do just fine. =)
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