If you cringe every time you look at your crowded hostas, don’t despair. You can move or divide hostas during even the hottest months of summer if you take a little extra care, but dividing them when cooler is ideal.
Hosta plants are popular in Midwest yards because most are easy-to-grow and low maintenance. The plants also live for many years. All hostas need is enough water and the right amount of light.
Hostas are known as a go-to plant for shady areas. However, some hosta varieties thrive in partial or full sun. You can even grow hostas in containers, cover with mulch before winter or store in an unheated garage or shed, and the plants will return every spring.
These unfussy perennial plants usually survive and often thrive after replanting. Hostas grow in close clusters, or clumps, of plants that are easy to pull apart to create a new planting. You can divide most hostas every three to five years.
There are many reasons to divide (split) hostas, from changing your mind about its placement to taking divisions with you when you move. Sometimes hostas need to be moved to make room for an expanded flower bed or new deck. Trading hosta divisions is a great way to add variety without spending any money.
You can divide hostas in early spring or fall and every month in between. There are advantages to dividing hostas during the summer because the plants are at full height, and you can see what the issues are. Hostas that are centered out — dead in the middle of the clump but healthy on the outside — are telling you they are long past the need for division.
Follow the steps below to divide hostas, then give the newly transplanted divisions a little extra love — a shady home and plenty of water — for the rest of the growing season.
You don’t need fancy tools to dig up and divide your hostas:
• Spade or shovel
• Sharp trowel or knife
• Big bucket or kiddie wading pool if you’re splitting a large hosta cluster
• Water, lots of water
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• Optional: gardening gloves, kneeling pad, twine or old belt
Schedule hosta division for morning or evening on a relatively cool day when the ground isn’t too muddy or dry. Your plants will appreciate it — and so will you.
It’s best to dig the hosta’s new home first if you’re moving from one part of the yard to another. Dig a hole deep enough for the plant’s roots, and loosen the soil around it. Otherwise, have clean buckets or pots ready to store the divisions until it’s time to replant.
1. Disinfect your tools. Disinfect your spade or shovel and trowel or knife in a mild bleach solution, then rinse with water. Disinfecting is crucial if you’re borrowing or sharing tools. Disinfecting will help to avoid transferring disease from one area of your garden to another.
Tip: When you’ve completed the day’s gardening chores, rinse off and disinfect your tools again — store buried in a bucket of sand. You’ll have a head start on your next garden task.
2. Take a closer look. Get down on your knees — a soft kneeling pad or thick towel helps — and reach into the hosta you plan to divide. Move the leaves to the center to get a good look at its base. You’ll have a better idea of where to dig without damaging the hosta or surrounding plants.
Tip: If the plant isn’t too full, wrap an old belt or piece of rope around the base of the plant, pulling the outside leaves up and out of the way before you dig.
3. Dig up the hosta. Use a sharp spade or shovel to dig a vertical trench a few inches from the outside of the crown. Dig all the way around. Then, dig all the way around again, this time a little deeper, moving the shovel back and forth to loosen the soil around the roots. Dig deep enough to get the entire root ball. If the hosta is large, you may need the help of another person to loosen the hosta from the soil and pull it free.
4. Ready the hosta. Shake the excess dirt off the roots and back into the hole. To make it easier to see shoots and roots, rinse thoroughly in a bucket or kiddie pool.
5. Divide the hosta. Finally, it’s time for the fun part. Decide how many new plantings you’d like from the original hosta clump. Using a sharp trowel or knife, cut between the shoots and roots. Don’t be afraid: hostas are resilient and can take it. Gently pull the sections apart, making sure to keep much of the roots intact with each new cluster.
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Tip: You can divide a hosta clump into single plants, but those plants will need extra care and take much longer to fill out the new space. It’s better to keep three or more plants from the clump together.
6. Plant the hosta. In hot weather, planting hostas in the sun can cause transplant shock. Find a shady spot for their new home or keep in pots in the shade until the weather cools.
To give the new plants enough space, plant the hostas as far apart as the mature plant was tall. Replace the soil into the hole with the new plant; tamp down to remove air pockets.
Water them generously for the next few weeks or longer if the weather remains hot and dry. Some experts advise mulching over the crown before the plant’s first winter.