Dividing plants is a mixed bag of sentiments. It is rarely an easy task and sometimes downright exhausting. But you do get more plants… for free.
Some plants, like bellflowers and coreopsis, are always nagging to be divided. They can’t seem to go 2 years without needing attention. With that kind of behavior, I’m not sure I’d want more of the plants, even if they are free.
Then there are the more sedate plants that really couldn’t care less if you ever got around to dividing them. Some absolutely faint at the mere idea of disturbance and will make you pay for your efforts with multiple seasons without blooms. I have great respect for plants, like the ones listed here, that can make themselves at home in the garden, and demand little from my spade. They sound like good choices for my minimalist garden.
❦Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)
Many plants that resent disturbance have either woody or extremely long taproots; sometimes both. Balloon flower looks all smiles and fun, but try digging one up and you’ll see that it has anchored itself deep down in the soil. They may be hard to move, but they will self-sow. If you don’t want more plants, dig them out while they are young.
❦Bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Bugbane’s tap root is as imposing has its upper half. Let it be. Stand back and admire it. This plant will live for years without asking anything of you.
❦Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterfly weed has learned a thing or two about survival from its cousin milkweed. This is yet another plant with an ominous tap root and a propensity to stay put. You will get plenty of volunteer seedlings. As with balloon flower, move them while they’re young.
❦Columbine (Aquilegia hybrids)
There’s no tap root here, just a laissez-faire, casual attitude about spreading out. Columbine plants tend to stay compact and tidy, giving no cause for disturbance. They will readily self-sow, giving you all the new columbine plants you could hope for.
❦False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
When you plant a beautiful baptisia, make sure you choose your spot wisely. It will not budge. You may never find the end of its tap root and even if you did, it will not be pleased about it. You may be able to dig and relocate your baptisia, although it will take awhile to settle in, but division is almost impossible.
❦Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)
Here’s yet nother stately plant with an equally imposing tap root. Despite having somewhat creeping rhizomes, you’d be much better off waiting for seedlings or starting some yourself. With a plant that can easily get 6 ft. wide, how many more plants could you need?
❦Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis)
Hellebores are notoriously slooooow to start spreading. Once you have a nice size clump, you also have a temperamental plant that resents disturbance, even if you could bring yourself to slice into something you’ve waited years to see. Luckily, they do have a tendency to self-sow. Dig and move the little guys while they’re young.
When breeding new hostas was in its rampant stages and the price for a new cultivar rivaled a car payment, people would pull their resources to buy one large plant and split between 3 friends. You can indeed divide hosta, but unless you have lost all sanity needing the newest introductions, you don’t have too. Hostas are lackadaisical about growing, They bide their time, getting fatter and fatter and then never die out in the center. This is one time being a sluggard pays off.
❦Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida)
You could divide anemones, but they will resent it. Maybe that’s why most of the plants I have tried in my garden have suffered untimely deaths. I’ve read that propagating by root cuttings is easier than division and you won’t lose any bloom time. So the next time I’m tempted to try gorgeous ‘Honorine Jobert’, I’ll keep that in mind.
❦Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)
You have to wonder how a plant as toxic as monkshood became so popular in gardens. Well, the flowers are lovely. However we should take a hint from its bent toward doing us harm and just leave it alone. You will probably get a few volunteers to fill out your garden, but let the original plant be.
❦Peony (Paeonia hybrids)
Peonies can sit happily in one spot, for years. Generations to come will enjoy the peonies you plant today. If you do divide them, be prepared to wait for flowers, while they sulk. Do not disturb.
❦Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
This plan is a maze of roots. Although it will sucker, it is very hard to dig out even the tiniest of plants. It simply does not re-acclimate well.