Hostas are one of America’s most popular perennials. With over 3000 registered varieties, these perennials are a staple of the shade garden, although some varieties can thrive in sun. There are so many reasons to love Hostas, it’s no wonder they are a favorite among gardeners. Hosta’s are easy to care for, easy to propagate by division, long living, and most importantly beautiful and diverse in color, shape, and texture.
Although dividing Hosta is not usually necessary, it has many advantages that make them one of the most commonly divided perennials by gardeners and do it yourselfers. Dividing Hostas helps prevent overcrowding, and improves the overall health of your Hostas and surrounding plants. My personal favorite reason for dividing these perennials is you get free plants!
When to Divide Hostas
Early spring and fall are the best times to divide Hosta, but these perennials are so resilient they can be divided anytime throughout the growing season as long as they receive adequate water.
I prefer to divide in early spring right before they unfurl (right before the leaves open up from their curled up state). This allows you to see where the plant is and where you have to dig, but at the same time the leaves aren’t big enough to be in the way.
Also, dividing perennials in spring lets you use spring rains to your advantage and allows the plant plenty of time to get established before the heat of summer, or freezing cold of winter.
How to Divide Hostas
In the steps below I’m dividing a gigantic Hosta in the front of my property. Normally I would dig up the entire plant, but since this is so large I’m actually slicing through the middle of the plant while it’s still in the ground, and only digging up half. This is usually necessary for really large plants.
1. Dig Around the Base- Start by using a flat (affiliate) edging shovel to dig around the base of the area you are looking to dig out. In this example I’m only digging out half the plant so I sliced through the middle of the plant in between the foliage that’s starting to unfurl.
To stay in control place the shovel where you want to dig in, and then use your foot to press down on the shovel. Your body weight is doing the work. Don’t throw your arms, or stab at the area.
You don’t have to go too deep at this point. The main goal of this first pass is to break through the top of the ground and get a shape of the area you are digging out.
2. Dig Deeper and Pull Up- Again, with the edging shovel, go around the same area you just dug into at least one more time. For every lap around the plant you make, you’ll be able to dig a little deeper. Eventually you’ll be deep enough where you can start to use more of a prying action to push the clump out of the ground (as seen below).
3. Shake Off Dirt- Once you get the clump free from the ground, gently lift it up, barely off the ground, and drop it a couple of times to shake off as much dirt as possible (see below). This will make it easier to handle and minimize the amount of dirt that will need to be replaced.
4. Put Clump Onto Tarp Or Flat Area- Once you feel you have removed most of the loose dirt, put the clump onto a tarp or blanket. I like to place on a blanket on top of a hardscape surface. This clump below is on top of a painters blanket on the side of my driveway.
5. Use Edging Shovel to Cut Into Sections- From here, use the edging shovel to cut the clump into smaller sections. I try to find areas of the clump that are naturally divided. The idea is to prevent slicing through the eyes or leaf portions if possible. I find this part to be much easier on a hardscape surface. You can control your cut better and won’t need as much force.
I divided this clump into three sections (see below)…
90% of the time, this is where I would take the three clumps above and simply plant them wherever I intended too. I really prefer this kind of dividing where you’re taking larger chunks of the plant with multiple eyes per section.
These clumps are resilient and less likely to dry out. They have more roots and will be easier to establish. Also, if a few eyes within these sections fail, it doesn’t matter since other parts can still get established.
6. Optional, Rinse Off Roots and Cut With Knife- If you’re looking to get more divisions, then you will need to go a little further then the last step. After establishing the 3 clumps like we did in step 5, you’ll have to prepare the clumps to be divided again.
This time more precision is required since you are dealing with smaller clumps. A long knife is a better tool for this job. Any long, sharp knife will work but it’s best if you can get a (affiliate) garden knife.
But before dividing again, I recommend rinsing off as much dirt as possible. I like to fill a wheelbarrow with water and bob the plant up and down like I’m creating a wave pool. This knocks away a lot of the dirt tangled up in the roots and will make it much easier to cut and be precise with the knife.
Once clean (or cleaner) use the knife, or your hands to separate sections.
Hostas have a clumping root system. You should be able to use your knife and hands to separate these clumps and slowly pull them apart. There might be some tangling of the roots but as you separate clumps the roots will become untangled. Don’t worry if some of the clumps get compromised.
This is what one of the divisions looks like:
7. Transplant- Once you have your new divisions, it’s time to transplant them in their new location. Make sure you dig a hole plenty wide enough so you can spread the roots out. Don’t plant too deep. You should see a soil mark from where they were previously planted. Don’t bury deeper than this mark.
Incorporate compost into the existing soil and use your hands to pat down the soil around the Hosta so you get good soil to root contact. For more about planting Hostas check out: How to Plant Hostas
8. Keep Watered!- As with all transplants, keep your Hostas watered until established. Continue to monitor their health especially as you begin to back off on watering.
For more information on Hostas and other shade garden plants check out : Beautiful Shade Garden Ideas
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