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How to Divide Hosta

I’m really lucky that I live in the Midwest, and that hostas are so easy to grow and one of my favorite perennials! They are great filler plant and backdrop plants in your landscape. They are the kind of plant that just keeps on giving. In fact, they grow and spread so well, that you often have to divide hosta to keep them healthy. They are also so effective at shading out other plants, and are great to use to crowd out weeds (but they can also do it to smaller plants too.). Their steady increasing is size makes them the perfect plant to transplant around your yard, or share with your neighbors.  While there is a little work involved, it’s so worth it to divide hostas since they are one of those plants you can continuously make more plants from.

Midwest landscaping with hostas

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Once I discovered that there were more varieties of hostas than just plain green, and white edged ones, the hosta bug bit me pretty hard. I started buying ones with blue leaves, red stems, bright greens stripes and more. I have over 20 varieties and am just slightly obsessed. I love that with dividing and transplanting, and I can sprinkle all of these different varieties all over my yard by making new plants by splitting the root clump. They really love to live in my shade garden and are low-maintenance.

Use a sharp knife like a garden knife or spade shovel to split hostas and gloves and eye protection aren’t a bad idea.

My favorite tool to divide and transplant is called a perennial spade shovel. It’s a shovel with a smaller head, so it’s easier to dig behind your plants, especially in tighter areas, and plants with tightly packed roots. You can tell it’s my favorite shovel…ever.

Hosta noses poking out of the ground, the best time to divide them

While you can divide and transplant hosta at any time of year, it’s really best to do it in northern climates when their little “noses” or buds start to poke out of the ground in early spring before they fully form new shoots.

Hosta noses poking out of the ground which is a perfect time for transplanting in the spring.

These above are almost a little past the early nose stage, once they come up and the weather gets warm, they shoot up and open quickly. Some of mine are already pretty well grown out.  It’s easier when they are just buds. While you can divide hosta later in the fall in September or October when they are fully leafed out before the first frost. The leaves don’t really like it, and they can get all wilty and sad looking,especially if you are doing it later in summer like late July and August and need to be cut back after transplanting. Then they really need to be back to the ground for their best chance of survival, and so it’s easier for them to put energy into rooting.

Hosta plant needing to be divided.

When is the right time to divide your hosta plant? It can depend on your cultivar, but generally when they ave hit maturity and look a bit crowded for their space, and super-dense (or when your neighbor needs one or you need a spot to fill. lol.).

Hosta bunch needing to be divided

You can divide and transplant Hosta one of two ways.

The proper way would be to dig out the entire root ball and place on a tarp. Section the clumping root system by cutting them apart. Shake off the excess soil, then put a bunch back in where you got them from, back fill with loose dirt and water heavily (then plant the rest or give them away.). If they have already leafed out too far, the foliage should be cut back s once transplanted so they energy can go into establishing roots. It’s best to have at least 3 leafing shoots to a bunch. You can plants as little as one shoot with a tiny root on it (they are resilient!) Or, you can do it like I do, which is the lazy way.

A woman holding a shovel screaming inffront of a garden

I  only dig out the section I need from the ground, and leave the rest.  I just back fill the hole left with dirt, water, and move on. It’s important to give them much water after that so they can recover. It’s also important to water your new transplant extensively the first year to avoid transplant shock. That being said, they are pretty hardy!

How to divide hosta the lazy and simple way a shovel dividing hosta

You can see these are a little more unfurled, but not quite all of the way. Once you have your clump dug out, use your shovel to “cut” apart the root ball. Hosta roots can be really tough and tight, so you might have to put some weight behind it to slice through. Cut them into smaller sections, with about 3 plant sections each, and plant those in  the ground in a hole that matches the size of your root ball. Add more dirt around to cover roots as needed, and water.

Use a spade shovel to cut apart a hosta root ball

It’s so easy! They’ll start to leaf out, and grow. I end up dividing my hosta clumps every other year or so. It depends on how badly the voles and mice have eaten the juicy inside over the winter. I have had where the little critters have completely almost eaten entire plants.

How to divide hostas a hosta garden with a pine tree and dogwood in the background

You can see the middle of this clump is completely gone! Some small rodent snacked on it all winter. While they saved me the trouble of having to dividing my hosta, it makes me really upset when they eat an expensive or prize variety (I have friends who live in wooded areas and the deer also love them!)!

Vole damage to hosta

A few other tips on growing Hosta are:

-They don’t generally love full sun and their leaves can fry out in the August heat.

-They love compost and organic matter. They will also thrive with mulch.

-Large clumps of mature Hosta can be really heavy. So the best time to divide is before they are leafed out.

-Hosta can be grown in pots or decorative containers on a patio too as long as they are well watered!

-Some varieties do better in shade (generally the darker leaved variety). Those with lighter leaved foliage can tolerate more sun.

Dappled shade mixture with hosta plants and day lillies

Hosta are such a carefree and easy to grow plant, and mix in so well with other plants, that you’ll love being able to plant them all over your yard. They do well in shade, part shade, and some sun, and are a nice plant to fill in those bare spots!

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  1. Jen, we love hostas as well and have 20 plus varieties. You should come see if there are any that you would like to divide and snag some different ones.

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