Plant Division: How To Divide Plants

Illustration Of Hand Dividing Plant With Small Knife
Divide Lilies with Root Ball and Crumbles
(Image credit: Molly Thompson, with permission)

Plant division involves digging up plants and dividing them into two or more sections. This is a common practice performed by gardeners in order to keep plants healthy and create additional stock. Let's look at the how and when of dividing plants.

Can I Split a Plant?

Wondering about the answer to the question, “Can I split a plant?” Since plant division involves splitting or dividing of the crown and root ball, its use should be limited to plants that spread from a central crown and have a clumping growth habit. Numerous types of perennial plants and bulbs are suitable candidates for division. Plants having taproots, however, are usually propagated through cuttings or seeds rather than by splitting apart.

When to Divide Garden Plants

When and how often a plant is divided depends on the type of plant and the climate with which it is grown. Generally, most plants are divided every three to five years, or when they have become overcrowded. Most plants are divided in early spring or fall; however, some plants can be divided at any time, like daylilies. Basically, spring and summer-flowering plants are divided in fall while the others in spring, but this doesn't always have to be the case. There are also plants that do not respond well to having their roots disturbed. These plants are best divided while dormant to reduce the effects of shock.

How to Divide Plants

Dividing plants is easy. Simply dig up the entire clump and then carefully divide the crown and root ball into two or more section, depending on the size of the clump. Sometimes you can divide garden plants with your hands, as with many bulb species, while the use of a sharp knife or garden spade is oftentimes necessary to get the job done when dividing plants. Once you have divided plants, shake off the excess soil and remove any dead growth. You might want to cut the plants back prior to replanting too. This helps reduce any shock received from the division process and transplanting. Replant your plant divisions in a similar location or another pot.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.