Dividing Hostas

I have two hostas on the walkway that have been growing there for at least five years. One of them has gotten quite large. I had been playing around with the idea of dividing it. The problem was, I didn’t really know much about hostas, other than they did well in shade.

Large hosta

Large hosta

After researching them on the Internet, I found a good resource; Walter Reeves’ website. Walter was with the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service for nearly 30 years, hosts a weekly radio call-in show where he answers caller’s gardening questions, and writes a weekly column of garden tips in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While his focus is on Georgia, his advice would probably hold true for the southeastern states: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I imagine that most states have someone similar who has good advice on gardening in your area.

According to Mr. Reeves, I’m about a month late getting around to dividing my hosta. I should have divided it when the new shoots were starting to come up in late March. Given that I really don’t want to wait another year to divide this plant, I grabbed my shovel and a large plastic tub.

I made cuts around the plant, about halfway between the drip line and the stems and then started prying it up. I probably should have gone all the way out to the drip line. That would have preserved more of the root system, but there was no way all that mass of soil would have fit in my tub.

Once I had it loose, I manhandled it into the plastic tub and poured a gallon or two of water over the plant. I wanted to loosen the soil enough to see the individual plants making up this mass.

Even with the soil still covering the roots, I quickly realized that there were many, many more plants than I had any hope of using. At a rough estimate, there were probably 30+ plants in there. I really didn’t want that many of the same hosta filling what little space I had.

OK, time for Plan B. (This is gonna get ugly…some of you may want to look away for a few minutes.)

Using the shovel, I hacked the root ball in half. Then I hacked one of the halves in half again. (For those of you keeping score, I now had three pieces; one was half of the original mass, and two that were each a quarter of the original.) I planted the half back into the hole from which I had taken the original plant. I moved the two quarters farther down and across the walkway; against the corner of the patio.

Any time you dig up a plant to transplant it, you are going to damage the root system. I probably would have been better off to start digging at least out at the drip line of the plant. That would insure that I preserved more roots. Either way, the newly planted pieces have a reduced root system and cannot support as much top growth. To give the transplants a better chance of surviving, I had to prune off a lot of the leaves. Like most plants,hosta’s produce new leaves from the center of the plant. So, I trimmed off a lot of the older, outer leaves. I also watered them in very well; this helps insure that there are no air pockets around the roots and provides plenty of water for the roots that are left. The walkway is at the top of a slope, so I knew I had good drainage. If I was transplanting into a low-lying area or one with poor drainage, I might have watered a little less. We’ll see how they do over the next few weeks.

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