Sharing is caring: Why divide native plants?
Dividing native plants is a rewarding practice that not only promotes plant health but also allows you to expand your garden and share its beauty with others.
Native plants, which have evolved to thrive in your local environment, can often become overcrowded or outgrow their spaces over time. Dividing them is a sustainable way to rejuvenate your garden, enhance its aesthetic appeal, and maintain the ecological balance. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the what, why, when, and how of dividing native plants, ensuring a successful and flourishing garden.
Understanding Plant Division
What is Plant Division?
Plant division, also known as dividing or splitting, is a horticultural technique that involves separating mature plants into smaller sections, each with its own roots and growth potential. This process revitalizes overgrown plants, improves their vigor, and produces new plants for your garden.
Whether a plant can be successfully divided depends on its growth habit, root structure, and overall biology. While many herbaceous perennials, bulbs, and some woody plants can be divided, other types of plants, such as annuals, biennials, and some trees and shrubs, are not suitable for division.
Why Divide Native Perennial Plants?
Healthier Plants: Over time, native plants can become congested and experience reduced vigor due to limited space and nutrients. Dividing them allows each division to receive adequate resources, leading to healthier growth and more blooms.
Propagation: Dividing native plants is an efficient way to propagate new plants. By creating multiple divisions from a single plant, you can expand your garden or share plants with friends, family and fellow native plant gardening enthusiasts.
Enhanced Aesthetics: Dividing native plants helps maintain an organized and visually pleasing garden layout. It prevents overcrowding and allows for proper spacing between plants, showcasing their unique characteristics.
Ecological Balance: Native plants play a vital role in supporting local wildlife and biodiversity. Dividing them ensures that they continue to thrive and provide food and habitat for insects, birds, and other creatures.
Renewal: Dividing older plants reinvigorates them by promoting new growth. This renewal extends the lifespan of your native plants, contributing to a resilient and sustainable garden.
Free plants: Need we say more? Reduce the size of your lawn with your new native plants. If your plants are native, you can share with your neighbors to extend your wildlife habitat footprint.
When to Divide Native Plants
Timing Matters: The timing of plant division is crucial for successful outcomes. In general, the best times for dividing native plants are during the early spring or fall, when temperatures are moderate, and plants are not actively flowering.
Signs It's Time to Divide:
- Crowded Growth: When the center of the plant becomes crowded, with weak growth or fewer blooms, it's a clear sign that division is needed.
- Root Overgrowth: If you notice that the plant's roots have filled the pot or the area around the plant, it's time to consider dividing.
- Reduced Blooming: If your plant has shown a decline in flowering or overall vitality, it might benefit from division.
- Every Few Years: Some native plants benefit from regular division every 3 to 5 years to maintain their vigor.
How to Divide Native Plants
- Choose the Right Time: As mentioned earlier, early spring or fall are the optimal times for division. Choose a day when the weather is mild, and the plants are not under stress. Rain in the forecast is a good time.
- Gather Tools: Prepare a sharp and clean garden knife or spade, gardening gloves, and containers for the divided sections. Be sure to thoroughly clean your tools so as not to spread diseases from plant to plant.
- Water Plants: Water the plants a day before division to ensure that they are well-hydrated and easier to work with.
Step-by-Step Native Plant Division Process:
- Dig Up the Plant: Carefully dig up the entire plant using a spade or fork, taking care not to damage the roots. Be sure to research your plant’s roots - some go deeper and may need more care than others.
- Inspect and Separate: Gently shake off excess soil to expose the root system. Inspect the plant for natural divisions—areas where the plant naturally separates into distinct sections.
- Division: Use your hands, a sharp knife, or two gardening forks to divide the plant into sections. Each section should have its own set of roots and healthy growth.
- Trim Roots and Foliage: Trim any damaged or excessively long roots, and prune back the foliage to reduce stress on the plant.
- Replant: Replant each divided section at the appropriate depth in well-prepared soil. Water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.
- Mulch and Water: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the newly planted divisions to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Water regularly during the initial weeks to help the plants establish.
Tips for Successful Native Perennial Plant Division
Choose Healthy Plants: Divide only healthy, well-established plants. Avoid dividing stressed or weak plants, as they may struggle to recover.
Handle Roots with Care: Treat the plant's roots gently to minimize damage. Healthy roots are vital for the successful establishment of divided plants.
Water Adequately: Keep newly divided plants consistently moist during the first few weeks to encourage root development.
Prune Back Foliage: Reducing the foliage on divided plants helps balance the ratio of roots to top growth, minimizing transplant shock.
Provide Adequate Space: Plant divided sections at the recommended spacing to ensure healthy growth and prevent overcrowding.
Monitor Growth: Keep an eye on the progress of the divided plants. If any divisions show signs of stress, provide extra care and attention.
Common Native Plants Suitable for Division
Dividing Bee Balm in early spring or fall can help rejuvenate older plants, prevent overcrowding, and promote healthier growth. Ensure each division has a portion of the root system and shoots for successful propagation.
These hardy plants can be divided in early spring or fall, producing multiple sections to add color to your garden. A keystone species, goldenrod is a late-season bloomer supports pollinators and more.
Dividing coneflowers helps rejuvenate them, and the new divisions can provide more blooms for pollinators.
These popular native plants benefit from division every few years to maintain their vigor and vibrant blooms. The best time to divide Rudbeckia is typically in the early spring or early fall when the plant is not in active bloom.
Native Grasses like Switchgrass, Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed: Ornamental native grasses like switchgrass aren’t divided as commonly as herbaceous perennials, but can be divided to create more clumps and enhance their visual impact.
Dividing native plants is a rewarding practice that promotes plant health, enhances garden aesthetics, and supports local ecosystems. By understanding the timing, techniques, and benefits of plant division, you can rejuvenate your garden, share the beauty of native plants with others, and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient landscape. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or new to the world of horticulture, dividing native plants offers a tangible connection to the cycles of nature and the joy of nurturing life from the soil up.
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