Every gardener knows the feeling one gets when one of their “garden children” are relocated to a new home. This new home can be in a new-fangled area of the garden or gracing the garden at a friend’s new abode. Regardless of where the plant ends up, the best way to share ones plant wealth is through a process called division.
Division is a form of propagation where the mother plant is divided into at least two parts. While this may seem cruel, it is in fact healthy for the plant and increases the plant’s ability to take in more nutrition. The drawback to this type of propagation is that it cannot be done anytime of the year. It must be done while the plant is not growing. This includes vegetative growth and flowering. If done while the plant is actively growing, the plants cycle will be thrown off and the plant will not be able to generate enough food to store for winter. This, in turn, could cause the plant to lose vigor and not survive its winter slumber.
Plants should only be divided in the early spring or early fall. If you are not sure whether the plant needs to be divided, observe the plant material. Plants that are dying out in the center, produce flowers that are small in size, and whose vegetation is laying over. These need to be divided. Another way of determining if a plant needs to be divided is to perform this procedure every two years. This will guarantee plant vigor and health while giving the gardener the chance to examine the plant material for disease.
Methods of Division
The first method works well with plants that have fibrous root systems. This includes ornamental grasses, herbs, and many houseplants. To begin the process, sharpen all tools involved. This includes a garden spade or shovel, and a knife. Once this is done, start the process by digging up the plant material and placing it on a hard surface. Decide how many divisions you desire and begin to create these divisions by cutting the root mass with a sharp knife. Another approach is to push a garden spade down through the root mass and create the divisions.
An additional technique includes placing two garden forks in the center of a plant’s root ball and pulling them in opposite directions. This can be done several times until the number of divisions is obtained
Plants with rhizomes or tubers need a different type of division process. These include irises and cannas. This process begins with removing the plants from the ground. Shake off any excess soil and wash off. Cut rhizomes or tubers into pieces with at least one growth point or dormant bud on each division.
Once the plant has been divided, remove all dead, damaged and diseased plant material. Dig the hole for the division twice the width of the divided part. The depth of the hole needs to be the same depth as the plant material.
After the hole is dug, place plants with fibrous roots in the hole and fill in. Plants with rhizomes need to be planted with half of the rhizome above the soil line. Tubers, on the other hand, need to have their growth points or dormant buds sticking slightly out of the soil. Once the division is securely in the ground, do not forget to water in.
While dividing plant material is easy to do, there are a few hints to follow. The first hint is a general rule when working with plant material. Only divide and replant on an overcast day. This will reduce plant stress. If an overcast day is not in the forecast then provide shade for the plant material. Using a row or plant house sold through Outdora can create this much-needed shade. Also, if the plant is divided in the fall, trim back any foliage.
Another rule to follow when dividing plant material is to always divide the original root mass into fourths. This reduces the root mass enough that it encourages healthy growth.
So this year while you are surveying your floral domain, consider sharing some of your plant wealth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.