Why Divide Ornamental Grasses
- to make more plants
- to preserve the strain of a particular named variety or favourite
- to renew an overly mature clump where some portions have died
- to stimulate new growth after some winter damage (perhaps relocate)
When to Divide Grasses
- divide when actively growing
- cool season grasses - spring, not summer; again in early fall
- warm season grasses - spring until mid-summer (do not divide any
time during the flowering stage)
- evergreen grasses and sedges - spring only
How to Divide Grasses
- the exposed roots must not dry out
- try to do this on a rainy or cloudy day
- or cover any exposed roots to protect them
- smaller grasses can sometimes be pulled apart
- bigger clumps can be dealt with by prying apart, using 2 potato
forks jammed straight down into the center of the grass clump. They
need to be back to back with each other. Then push them apart at the
tops of the handles
- a sharp shovel can penetrate the centers of some
- for large clumps of grasses such as Miscanthus:
- cut the foliage to ground level
- use a wide-blade axe to hack the clumps into wedges or smaller
- pry out
- further divide to desired size with pruners
- trim away any dead roots
- replant and water thoroughly
- another technique for large Miscanthus, etc
- dig a trench around the grass clump
- pry out the entire root ball with a shovel or crowbar
- cut into pieces using an old hand or hack saw
- replant and water thoroughly
If you would like to add any tips, please send
them along. This page is too bare! If you have any pictures of dividing
large grasses, we would be very pleased if we could use them.
Tip From Brad Weldon:
I use a reciprocating saw to divide the more vigorous grasses. It makes
a nice and surprisingly clean cut.
Tip from E.:
Miscanthus 'Giganteus' is a great plant and I wanted to pass on a tip
for dividing. I had a large clump of this in my garden and when I was
moving...I wanted to take a piece with me... Two hefty guys plus myself
and three substantial pry bars later we had the monster out of the ground.
(The hole remaining looked like a bomb crater!) After several attempts
at dividing using ever increasingly effective tools (or so we thought!)
we finally resorted to a gas powered concrete saw! This we would recommend
to anyone to use when wrestling with this specimen......it divided it
up very neatly into 8 generous portions all of which survive in different
locations around the Georgian Bay region of Ontario (Zones 4B to 5B).
P.S. We have quite a nice display of grasses at the Niagara Parks Botanical
Garden, the 'campus' of the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.
Tip from Bill Holt, Willowmist.com:
Use a hatchet or axe head (which you mention), but place it precisely
where you want the cut and then pound it through with a heavy hammer,
hand maul or sledgehammer. Much safer than axe swings, and even Grandma
can do it - just takes her a few more hits. (I'm Grandpa... I know about
Pics from Joe N., Ann Arbor, Michigan
A picture is worth a thousand words. Joe N. used an old handsaw and
kept his lawn neat and tidy by putting a small tarp underneath. That
made the clump easy to pick up and move while keeping the roots shaded.
|Joe has divided a clump of
Click on the pictures to enlarge
Tip from "Missouri Barb":
I helped a relative divide LARGE clumbs of Misicanthus on their farm
using a fence maintence tool - a steel bar about 7 feet
long and and inch in diameter, with a 2" wide chisel
shaped end. The weight of the tool combined with its sharp
narrow end allowed me to repeatedly drop it in one spot
until I cut through the dense roots. By cutting wedge shapes,
then digging around the root ball, we were able to remove
sections from extremely dense clay soil with much less effort
than one would expect. I believe the tool is used to tamp
rocks around fence posts - sorry I don't know its name.
Donna sent us this link to a tool called a Digger
/ Tamper / Spud Bar, which seems to be what Barb was
talking about above.
I came upon this great discussion on GardenWeb
Forum. Lots of great advice for dividing huge Miscanthus plants.
L Westrand suggests:
A DeWalt D25980K Pavement Breaker Hammer
"My son did the muscle work! My garden benefited."