Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How To Divide Hosta

Hi there!   Thanks for stopping by our garden.   Do you have large clumps of hosta that have outgrown their spot?  Or maybe you want to propagate your hosta to make more plants for your garden?  Or maybe you're like me, and you have a clump of hosta sitting in a spot where you would rather have something else.  

Well, today I'm sharing how I went about digging up and dividing one of the many clumps of hosta that we have in our yard.  Follow along with me, it's easy!

First I should say that the very best time to divide a hosta is in the early spring, right when the shoots start to come up out of the ground.  Doing it at that time will give the plants an easier time becoming established in their new spots, and the plants will look nicer once the leaves fill in.  However, I've always found that hostas are really hardy plants, and just about the only thing that kills a hosta in my yard is too little water or too many deer.   So while it's not ideal, I feel ok with dividing this hosta now in the early summer of my Raleigh, NC garden, as long as I keep them well watered through the hot weather.  (Those of you further north are hitting just the prime time for dividing your hosta!)

I had this hosta clump that was very well developed, and it was sitting right in a spot where I wanted to plant something else.   This clump is really mature, and though it's hard to see in these photos, it had begun to have three distinct centers (the one main one that you can see, and two smaller centers on the back side).  This was a sign that it's ready to be divided.   

To start, I raked all the mulch away from the plant.

Next I used a shovel to dig a full circle around the entire root ball.  In my experience, hosta roots are about as deep as the leaves are tall - so in this plant's case, the roots were about one shovel deep, or about 8".   The roots don't really go out beyond the circumference of the leaves, so it's not necessary to dig wider than the leaves.

Once I had dug a full circle, I used the shovel to pry up the root ball.  (see? In this photo below, you can see the secondary center this clump had started to form on the back side near the vent.)

I just used my hands to pick up the root ball.  If your clump is larger, you may want to use a shovel to lift the roots, or have a helper.  (Always lift from the knees to protect your back!)

I laid the whole thing onto a tarp.  The tarp is not necessary, but I like to use it to keep the working area cleaner, keeping soil off the pavers or out of the grass or mulch, or wherever it is I'm working.

You can see in the photo above that the clump was already starting to separate on its own, due to the side shoots that had begun to form.     

The next thing to do is to turn the clump onto its side, so you can begin to see the root system. 

Hosta plants are made up of many small shoots, each with about 4-6 leaves and its own root system.  Dividing a hosta is all about dividing up those individual shoots, making sure each of them has a full system of roots intact.   Below you can see an example of one of the shoots in this clump, with its root system attached.

When you're dividing these plants, you could choose to divide each large clump into halves, quarters, or even take them down to individual shoots if you wanted to.   If you need lots of plants, just make a lot of divisions! Just remember that the smaller the grouping, the longer it will take to fill out into a full size plant again.  

I was able to pull most of this plant apart by hand, the roots were pretty easily separated just with my fingers.  That's not always the case, but this time it worked out well.

I got down to this one medium sized clump remaining, and I tried to pull it apart by hand

but I pulled too hard, and the leaves broke off with no roots attached.  Oops!  Don't be like me!

So, for this last little bit, I used the shovel to cut the rootball apart, taking care to damage as few shoots of leaves as possible.   You could also use a sharp knife to cut the roots apart.

In all, I ended up with 8 divisions all of various sizes out of this one plant.  Some of the divisions were fairly large, while others were single shoots.

I put a few of the divisions into an old plastic plant pot with some extra soil, and I'm giving it away to a friend.

The rest of the divisions were planted around various places in the back yard.  

Here's how to plant a new division (it's kind of basic, but heck, I'll just be thorough and show this part too.)

First, loosen and pull back any mulch where you're putting the plant.   This mulch is from last year, and desperately needed to be loosened up anyway.

Then, use a shovel to loosen and turn the soil.

At this point, I sprinkle a slow release fertilizer in the soil.  You can use your fertilizer of choice, and follow the package directions. You could also dump in a shovel full of nice compost if you happen to have some, which I currently do not.

Using a spade or trowel or just your hand, pull back the soil, and place the division into the soil.

Then tuck the soil back around the roots and press firmly (but not hard packed).

Replace the fluffed up mulch, and water thoroughly.  Keep the new baby plants moist for the first month or two, so the roots have ample chance to develop to support the divided sections.   If you lose some leaves in the dividing process, it should be ok.  If you lose a lot of leaves, you can try cutting them all back to the ground, and most likely a new set of leaves will sprout from the root system.  

Now I've got four new hosta plants where I formerly had none.  I'm hoping that having them here will prevent the mulch in this spot from eroding so much when the rains pour out of the downspout.

I have a lot more hosta plants in the yard, which could receive the same treatment.

This one is huge!  You can see my size 9 flip flops next to it - that baby has to be 4' in diameter!

I think I'll leave all these other clumps in place for this year, though.  They are looking great, and I'm really enjoying them!

How are your hostas doing this spring?  Do you have another method for dividing them?  Please do drop me a note in the comments to let me know how your hostas are doing this year!

Linking to:

StoneGable:  The Scoop
Between Naps on the Back Porch:  Metamorphisis Monday
A Stroll Thru Life:  Inspire Me Tuesday
Fluster Buster:  Creative Muster Party
Creative Country Mom:  Home Sweet Garden Party
Ivy and Elephants:  What's it Wednesday
A Delightsome Life: Home and Garden Thursday
Fishtail Cottage:  Garden Party


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I just planted a bunch of hostas around my mailbox. From your pictures I see how huge they can get, so I will eventually need to divide them.

    1. Hi Brandi, thanks for stopping by! yes, depending on the variety, hostas can get really large, though some stay small also. I hope they like their spot by your mailbox. And I hope you'll come back and visit again!

  2. I live in Illinois, after living in the South for 20 years, and have inherited a yard with lots of hostas. I've never taken care of them before so all of this helps. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. So glad you found this useful. Good luck to you in your new yard! Hope to see you again soon here in our little corner of blogland.

  3. Nothing better than plants you can divide. I'll be dividing my day lilies this fall. :)

    1. Stacey, you're so right! I'm hoping to benefit from my friend who is dividing her day lilies too. :-)

  4. I usually divide everything in the springtime and have a bunch of 'starts' to sell during the summer ~ this year, I decided to leave it all alone and allow everything to grow. Perhaps i'll do it again next year. Hosta's are hard for me to divide - they are so hard in the center of them I have been known to bring a steak knife out to the garden to use. lol thanks again for linking up to the garden party this week over at Fishtail Cottage - have a great weekend! xoxo

    1. Yep, I like to divide things in the early spring too, it's better for the plants, and gives me something to do in the garden while things are still pretty barren. But this year, things got away from me in the schedule, and so here I am, dividing hostas after they're fully leafed out. Oh well! I got lucky on this one, it wasn't too hard, but when they are hard, I soak them really long, then go at them with a shovel, or yes, a steak knife. I've been know to use a saw on them too! Have great weekend.

  5. Great tutorial, Jenny. I've pinned it for future reference.
    Visiting from Fishtail Cottage garden party and I'll be back!

    1. Thanks Heather! Thanks for stopping by, and will look forward to seeing you again!

  6. Good advice and an informative post. The beauty of Hosta is that even when you divide them they form perfectly rounded clumps and when done in early spring they adjust very well. Good tips here. :)

    1. Thanks Lee, yes it's so true, hostas are such wonderful plants! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments, hope to see you again soon. :-)