How to Divide Hostas (for the Weekend Gardener)

If you have a shade garden, it probably contains a hosta or two.  These cooperative perennials grow quickly, thrive in a wide range of climate zones and require little attention–other than taming an occasional slug invasion (cheap beer) or watering during a severe dry spell.  Then after a number of years of neglect, you can divide hostas, to reshape an overgrown clump and get more plants for free.

A large clump of hostas

A large clump of hostas

Ever wonder if hostas need to be divided to stay healthy or if it’s mainly for garden aesthetics or new plants?  Most sources say that they rarely require division; typically growth just slows rather than creating problem like the hollow centers you can find in some neglected perennials.   I can personally attest that I have left some clumps untouched for over a decade and they still look good.  

On the other hand, your hostas may be overtaking your geranium plants or you may really want to add some to other spots in your garden.  In that case, get ready to divide!

Pink Geranium

Geraniums need their space too

Spring and early fall are considered the best times to divides hostas because the climate is wetter, therefore kinder to fragile transplants.  But if you are willing to diligently water your transplants or live where it is damp (e.g. early summer in Wisconsin), it is perfectly fine to divide them in summer.  If you have had a recent dry spell, water the day before dividing so you can get the plant up with a nice clump of soil. 

Getting ready to divide hostas

Getting ready to divide hostas

Hosta clump ready to be divided

Can you see a natural place to divide this clump?

It is easy to divide hostas!  If you have a modest sized clump, you may want to start by digging out the whole clump.  Dig the soil all around the clump down to a depth of at least eight inches and lift out the clump.  Set it on a surface you can cut on like a driveway or a tarp.  At this point some division purists will cut through the crown at a point between stems, then tease apart the roots below.  As casual weekend gardeners my husband and I are much more likely to insert a flat spade between some natural division and just cut down.  In that case, try to get 2-3 stems per division so that it you have done some root damage you are likely to have at least one healthy section left.

hostas-split-clump

hosta-clumpReplant the sections at the same depth as before, than pat down the surrounding soil. 

A very large hosta may be too big to remove as a full clump which leads to a different approach.  In this case, you can remove a section of the clump while leaving the remainder in its original spot.  Small sections can be transplanted whole or a larger piece can be further divided.  To minimize the visual impact of “scalping” my plant, I try to remove from the back, but the plant usually fills in quickly in any case.  Look for a natural division between stems as you decide where to sink in your spade. Like for whole clump divisions, replant at the same depth, then pat down the soil. 

to divide hostas look for a break in a clump

In a large clump, look for natural breaks

Need to cut back your hostas and have no place for the extras?  One of my favorite gardening memories was finding  a curbside full of discarded divisions laid out for passersby– just like Christmas in June!  If Freecycle is active in your area, consider offering them up for adoption through that.  You may just make another gardener’s day!

BTW, if any of you remember the time I grew hostas from seed, here are a couple of my “babies” in their 2nd year in the garden.  Let me tell you, dividing them is a lot easier (but I’m still a proud “mom”)!

Hosta babies growing up

Hosta babies growing up (yes I need to mulch)

For more reading, see: 

Dividing Perennials (Clemson University)

Hostas (University of Minnesota)

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14 thoughts on “How to Divide Hostas (for the Weekend Gardener)

  1. Louise

    Hi Inger!
    Would you believe I do not have one Hosta growing in my garden! I just can’t spare the space in the mound and I don’t “play” anywhere else in the yard.

    I always knew they could be divided but never knew how easily. Good to know! Thanks for sharing, Inger. I’ll be pinning:)

    P.S. No Berry Tarts for you, would you believe the letter B has been snatched up? However, the Letter L is yours and quite frankly, I’m glad. I sure could use a dose of Lemon Lavendar Cupcakes! Can’t wait! Thanks for playing the Picnic Game again, Inger. It is going to be a blast!!!

    1. Inger

      Well you have plenty in your yard to make up for no hostas Louise! And I think the Lemon Lavender Cupcake choice is for the best. That is what I failed at two years ago, but then Mother’s Day of 2013 I made it to rave reviews for my brunch. I didn’t write the recipe down right away (you’d think I’d know better by now) and my stepfather died just days after that so it never did get jotted down. So I think it is now or never to try to reconstruct. Do you always get such long life stories about the picnic recipes 😉

      1. Louise

        I’m excited about the cupcakes Inger. I’ve seen a few recipes on Pinterest for Lemon Lavendar Cupcakes but of course I can never tell how good they really are. I will definitely appreciate your honest approach and recipe. And yes, you would not believe some of the Picnic emails I get. I could write a book, literally, lol…but I love it so. It really is just what the doctor ordered for me this year:) It’s going to be “Splendid!”

    1. Inger

      I think sharing garden plants is such a great idea! I have been promising friends some of our Irises for a couple years. Perhaps I’ll use your comment as a push to divide them too this year.

  2. Karis

    This post makes me miss my yard. Hostas were one of the only plants Chris and I recognized when we went shopping for landscaping material back in 2009 for our newly purchased house, so we filled our backyard with them 🙂

    1. Inger

      Glad you got to do the irises. Ours have just started flowering so I will probably do mine in a couple weeks. Perhaps you daughter-in-law would trade hostas for irises sometime!

    1. Inger

      Thanks–we did the shade garden a few plants here and there and at times I thought it would never look like anything.

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