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Divide and Conquer

Most of the garden centers in my area are touting fall as the season for planting. I agree that autumn is a great time for assessing gaps in your garden design and filling in those blanks spaces not only with new plants, but also with divisions from existing ones. 


Recently, a client wrote a testimonial expressing her gratitude that I used the plants that were already on site, rather than only purchasing new.  My response was, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’  Dividing plants is not only healthy for your wallet, it’s also healthy for your plants and it keeps them looking their best. 

Divided daylilies – three became seven!

Divided Echinacea helps fill in blank spaces


Hostas, for example, are notorious for growing into a large clump with a bare spot in the middle – a plant donut if you will.  By dividing them, you can eliminate this problem, while giving yourself more plant material to relocate in your own garden. Divisions also make great gifts. Who wouldn’t want a free plant in good condition?  I have cherished peonies in my garden that originated from my grandparents’ farm in Michigan. I can’t think of a better way of sharing plants than to provide divisions to others. You are giving a gift that keeps on giving!

Divided Hostas grace my new water feature

Peony divisions from my grandparents’ garden

As a designer I feel strongly that repetition in landscape is key to maintain a natural and cohesive look. If you only plant one of every plant, your garden can appear chaotic instead of harmonious. I often repeat plant types and colors to carry the eye from one part of the garden to another and to provide balance in the overall design. One of my clients said she loved the feature of repetition in my garden, commenting that it was like continually running into old friends.

Astilbe chinensis has been moved around my garden to create repetition of color


The more I get to know my garden, the more I learn from the plants.  I’ve been able to observe which plants like which conditions and which ones don’t. If my design isn’t being fulfilled by plants that I want to grow in a space, I look at nearby plants.  If they are doing well, I’ll divide them and use them to fill in the voids. I recently moved some Heuchera from the front of my house to the woodland area where I had some empty spaces.  I’m confident these plants will prefer the part shade conditions under some deciduous trees; they are already looking happier and less crispy! In contrast, I have areas where certain plants are taking over.  I’ll divide them to keep them in bounds and relocate the clump I removed.

Plants that respond well to division include Peonies, Hostas, Daylilies, Echinacea, Rudbeckia and more. Simply dig out the plant and pull it apart or cut it with a spade, ensuring there are leaves and roots intact in each division. Then replant the divisions where you want them.  It’s as easy as that.  So pick up your shovel, go out into your landscape and prepare to divide and conquer!