TGT: Divide and Conquer

For the 10th installment of The Home Garden’s series on thrifty gardening we’ll be talking about propagating plants by division!

Learning how to divide plants is quite possibly one of the most useful skills that any gardener can learn to do. Many plants will eventually lose their vigor over time and dividing them is a great way to reinvigorate those plants for your garden. It’s also a great way to get free plants!

The first thing you need to find out is if it’s a good time to divide. In general spring time is the best time to divide but many plants, can also be divided in the fall. For demonstration purposes I chose to divide a daylily. Partly because daylilies can be divided in the fall or spring and partly because I have a bunch of ‘Stella D’Oro’ daylilies from my fall divisions last year that I can play with!

I began the division process by preparing a few pots for some of the offshoots to go into. You don’t have to do this part but if you haven’t decided where to put the new plants yet pots are a good option. I filled the pots about halfway with soil so that the daylilies would have plenty of room to grow. Some of the daylilies will go back into the garden.

The next thing I did was dig up the daylily clump. I took my long handled shovel and lifted the clump with as much soil as I needed to to ensure that I didn’t damage any roots. Then I knocked off the excess soil back into the hole.

Next I washed up the daylily roots so they were mostly clear of dirt and I could easily see where to make to make the separations at. Sometimes it’s easy to see and other times you have to work them around a little to find them but washing them helps. I just used a bucket of water and dipped them a few times. The water also helps to keep the roots moist during it’s operation.

After finding each section I gently pried them apart with my hands. Sometimes you can use garden forks to separate clumps but in this case I decided to separate the daylily into smaller pieces to make more plants.

I continued the process until I had 10 new plants which still left me with an adequate clump to put back in the original daylily’s place.

Of the 9 smaller clumps I put five of them in pots…

…and 4 in the garden area around the patio.

Even though they are somewhat small their root systems should continue to grow over the fall and will quickly become full sized flowering plants by next year.

It’s a fairly easy process that I think anyone can do. In my experience ornamental grasses are harder to divide than daylilies. The grasses have tighter and stronger root systems that make separation more difficult. Usually when I divide tough ornamental grasses I’ll use a sharp shovel blade and just cut through the sides of the plant. It may be rough but those grasses can usually take it.

It’s called division but I think an effective argument could be made to call it multiplication!

Next Week: Layering

Previous Thrifty Gardening Tips:

Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 1: Buying and Saving Discount Discount Plants
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 1 Follow Up: Buying and Saving Discount Plants
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 2: The Generosity of Gardeners
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 3: Save Gas, Only Mow Where You Go
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 4: Think Small Plants
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 5: Make Compost
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 6: Making a List
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 7: Know Thy Landscape
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 8: A Two Season Trick
Thrifty Gardening Tips Part 9: Plant Propagation

10 thoughts on “TGT: Divide and Conquer”

  1. It’s hard not to get excited about free plants! Dave this series on propagation techniques is wonderful! I could divide what I have and create two more beds!


  2. Thanks for posting this and giving such a great description on how to carry it out. I have a couple of daylilys that actually need to be moved. Now I’ll try to “multiply” them this weekend.

  3. Great tutorial on dividing. Will it work with peonies?

    So glad I found your website-I have alot to learn!

    Julie in Manchester

  4. Hi Julie!

    It should work very similar to peonies. Just make sure you leave about 3-5 eyes on the root mass and 2 or more good roots. It’s also best to do them in the fall as they tend to be picky. Replant them about an inch underneath rich soil and you should be good.

    We used to live over in Manchester about 8 years ago very nice area!

    Here’s some good info about making divisions of peonies: dividing peonies

Comments are closed.