Stillwater News Press


March 1, 2014

Grow! 03-02-14

Dividing hostas great way to propagate new plants

Oklahoma gardeners who are looking for a great shade-loving addition to their garden should look no further. One of the most popular shade perennials is the hosta. With new varieties being introduced every year, you can easily become addicted to this easy to grow foliage plant.

Hostas work well in many situations, but sometimes the plant simply gets too large for the area and needs to be divided. Division also is a great way to propagate new plants. With few exceptions, hostas do not come true when planted from seeds, leaving division as the primary mode of reproduction. Sometimes after being in the same location for many years, a hosta may die out in the center. If this happens, division is used to remove dead areas and improve the plant's appearance.

Fortunately, hostas are quite forgiving and can be divided anytime during the growing season, but the easiest and best time is in early spring when the soil is cool and moist and before the foliage is fully leafed out.

Start by digging up the entire plant. I like to use a garden fork to lift plants. Start digging 6-18 inches from the plant base, depending on the clump size.

Dig a circle around the clump, then loosen some of the soil within the circle and gently lift the hosta out of the ground.

Some hostas will have massive root systems, but don't worry if you cut through them. These plants store lots of energy and will readily produce new roots when replanted. To separate the plant into pieces, just cut through the clump with either a heavy knife, a spade or two garden forks. Be sure that each piece has several growing points and some roots. If you are new at dividing hostas or other perennials, washing the dirt off the clump can be helpful to see the individual plants and their rhizomes.

Hostas like a rich soil, so before replanting the newly divided plants, prepare the new planting area by mixing in a healthy dose of compost along with a sprinkle of balanced fertilizer. Set each plant in a hole at the same depth is was before, making sure the white basal portions of the stems are just under the ground and you can’t see them.

If you have washed the roots or the roots are not holding much soil, make a good size hole and spread the roots out in a fan. Replace the soil, pressing firmly with the palm of your hand around the plant, and water the plants well so no large air pockets in the soil exist. Top each plant with a few inches of mulch.

Be sure to keep newly divided plants well watered for the first two weeks, especially if there is a period of drought. During this period, the leaves may wither quickly on warm days since the roots have been reduced in size or were injured during division. A hot day may cause leaf burn, but this is not permanent damage. Spring division helps us to minimize withering problems.

Kimberly Toscano is assistant extension specialist and host of the OETA television program Oklahoma Gardening, which airs at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 3:30 p.m. Sundays, and assistant director of The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University.

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