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Davis Journal

Fall is a great time to divide and share plants

Oct 09, 2023 02:38PM ● By Kerry Angelbuer

David Rice pulls some transplants for attendees of the plant transplant class at Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. Photo by Kerry Angelbuer

The cooler fall weather is the perfect time to divide plants in the yard and share them with friends and neighbors. Keeping moist is vital for newly divided plants, and this is much easier with more rain and less heat. Getting plants in place before winter dormancy, puts them in the perfect place to thrive early next spring. David Rice, the instructor at a dividing, transplanting and plant exchange class, taught that many perennials are suitable for dividing and fall into three categories.

Spreaders: Strawberries fall in this category. The main plant sends out new plants on a spreading shoot which begins to root as it touches the ground in a new area. The main plant or the new plant can then be dug up and planted elsewhere.

Clumpers: Many plants fall into this category including day lilies, iris and ornamental grasses. The plants get larger as the roots spread out. A shovel can divide the plant into smaller pieces which are planted elsewhere. Keeping as much of the native soil as possible is helpful to reduce transplant shock. 

Wood crown: bushes and plants that come out from a center woody crown are divided by collecting some new growth above ground and then encouraging the cutting to develop roots by placing it in water or soil. Dipping the cutting in root hormone can speed the process. 

A standard shovel can handle most transplanting jobs, though a transplanting fork can minimize root damage as the plant is spit into pieces. Some tougher grasses may require a gardening saw, axe or even a chainsaw to cut through the dense root. Just like pruning the branches and stems of plants can stimulate more growth, cutting roots can also stimulate further root growth. Rice said that filling the prepared hole for the starts with water and watering the plant in after planting will give the new plant a good start. Plants are level, not too deep or raised. “Don’t let it dry out for several days,” he said, “and no fertilizer is needed for a couple of months.”

After the educational part of class, Rice took the class out to the garden surrounding the Weber Water Offices. He demonstrated how to divide several plants and gave out small starts to everyone. Rice was able to pull starts of Santa Fe Sunflowers with his hands, but the rest of the plants were divided with a shovel. The Zebra Grass he divided was dead in the center with green grass around the edges. He explained that this is a sign that a clumping plant needs to be divided to look its best. A healthy part of the plant can be replanted in the spot and the rest of the green parts can be given away or discarded. He also divided and shared variegated iris, yellow iris, Rocky Mountain goldenrod, wild rose, moonbeam coreopsis and asters. Rice demonstrated how to prune down the tops of the plant starts so that the roots do not have to struggle initially. Members of the class also brought plants they had divided at home to share. λ