Between real early spring and mid April is the ideal time to divide ornamental grasses, depending upon where you live. But the key is to get them divided before they start growing for the season.
Just dig up the clump and cut, chop or saw the clump into small pieces. There really is no exact science about how to go about this. And . . . if your ornamental grass has been growing in your landscape for a while, I suggest you eat your Wheaties, because you will have your work cut out for you.
And here’s a more recent video from 2018.
Older, established clumps of ornamental grass will come out of the ground in one big round clump like a bowling ball. And trying to divide that clump is going to be about as easy as dividing up a bowling ball. I’m not kidding, but I know you can do it!
The first time I tried to divide one I think I had every tool in the shed out there trying to get that thing apart. Eventually it worked, piece by piece.
But I’m going to share a secret with you. Something I learned the after that first futile attempt.
Sawzall, or more correctly, reciprocating saw. They now make pruning blades for reciprocating saws and they work great for
dividing up clumps of ornamental grass.
Have fun and stay inspired!
I have several pots of maiden grass that I would like to plant in the Spring but would like to know if I can keep them in the pots over the wi tear in my cellar. Would they survive?
The cellar might be iffy. It should have moist air and stay below 40 degrees. I’d plant them now, even if you have to move them in early spring. Plants are happiest in the ground.
Larry Hedgpeth says
Here’s what I do to divide large root plants (grasses, rhubarb, etc) with just hand tools – no gas or electric power needed. You’ll need a 6″ to 10″scraper with a 4′ handle or so (used to clean off floor tile, roof shingles, etc) and a fence post driver.
First, dig around the root mass so you can see how big it is on top – no need to dig it completely out of the ground. Too much like hard work! When you can see what you’ve got to work with, place the scraper blade where you want to make your first cut and use the fence post driver to drive it through the root ball.
Working from the side, you can dig that first piece out. Then cut other pieces off the main root ball and dig them out. When there’s only enough for one more piece, just leave it there and fill in with dirt around it. It’ll regrow again right where it is and you can do the same thing again in a few years.
This works well with both grasses and rhubarb. It’s probably not as fast as Mike’s Sawzall, but it sure beats trying to stomp a shovel through a root ball the size of a watermelon! It’s a good alternative for when you want to avoid power tools and just do your garden chores by hand.
Thanks for sharing this great idea, I’m going to have to give this a try. I’ve used all kinds of tools but never a fence post driver and a long handled scraper.
Very helpful! Very clear and concise. Thanks.
Mike my grandfather has 5 huge grasses that I want to ether take divisions off of it or take seeds. They are 6 foot tall. I anyone has any suggestions please let me know.
Thank you for all your information I love gardening and I learn a lot from you.
I was wondering if I can use liriope at the beach as a border to retain white small stones in place we get water that rises and the pebbles go everywhere I know they have strong roots or maybe you have another suggestion?
I just love Mike’s no nonsense approach to gardening and all the information I get here.
Thanks sooo much!
Thanks a lot for your small video on division of grasses.I own a moderate front garden and your tips are really nice to handle my garden attractively.
Sorry – I gave the wrong email address. Please use this one.
I just retired and am trying to take back my yard. I love your information and look forward to a rewarding year. However, my first two days using a small tiller, I ended up with poison oak breaking out on my arms and face. One of my beds had vines running across the top of the soil – I guess it was poison oak! I recognize it with leaves, but this was before they were present. I am highly allergic – how can I kill this? I hope you can help me out. Thanks!
thank you for bein so aggressive as far as keepin up with me I tdo take in all your information LOVE IT keep up the good work
Love all your hints, tips and info. You are so very generous with your information and in this economy it makes life so very sweet having a beautiful garden to sit in! Thanks!
Mike or whoever answers questions now. Recently Mike showed us some black plastic balls for air-layering. So where’s the follow on that ???
Where can we get them ?? Share that info on one of your newsletters.
Frank R. Meyers says
Great video. Very clear instructions.
Thank-you for the info on deviding grasses…
Can you divide Limelight Hydrangeas?
thank-you again for all your information on gardening…
Lynne Braun says
Sandy, You actually CAN divide Limelight Hydrangeas as long as they are not in tree form. It’s not really “dividing” them but more like taking a piece off of them. If they have been there a long time they will get trailing pieces kinda like Forsythia and you can lop a rooted piece off and plant it somewhere else. I have done it before. Hope this helps.
I usually put a rock on one of the lower branches and make sure the ground is in contact to a nodule. I push away the ground cover.When a good root system develops, I detach it from the mother plant. Works great with Nikko Blue Hydrangeas. Good Luck
D. Jackson says
Always very practical in what you do! Thanks for just being real about grardening and your personality! Great job!
Great info as always. Thanks so much! One thing that would help: Please tell us WHY you are doing things when you demonstrate. The “why” of what you are doing would really be helpful. For example, why cut the roots when you divide plants? What does that accomplish? Does it help the plant get started after dividing??
Sharon Collins says
Thanks for sharing this informative video…I can see I’ve got some work to do! I love the grasses that I have in my yard, and will enjoy spreading them around. (sorry that Susana Castillo can’t view the video. I recommend she try using a different web-browser)
Mary Weland says
Valuable information on dividing ornamental grasses. Thanks for your informational videos.
Hamid Khan says
A very worthfull clip and love to watch and get some experience so I can prctice in my garden.
Appreciate for you efforts.
Hi Mike. I find your website and tips invaluable. You have much patience. Thank you for helping me with my gardening,terrific advice.
Lynne Braun says
Mike, your site is great for beginner gardeners! I have been gardening forever but have found some useful information.
David Agee says
Very new to plants and am learning a lot. Retired three years ago have the time to do what I tried differnt time a had to stop.
I also was very surprised how small amount could be divided. Thank you so much for all of your experince. It is greatly appriciated
You are just awesome!
Tony Holland says
Great video Mike. I have been dividing grasses for many years now and as you say it is so simple.When I see a grass I like I buy one and take it home a divide it.I now have over 200 grasses in my garden but only about 30 varieties as each plant I buy gives me about 6 little plants which I grow in differant places around the garden.
Thank you for your great videos, very informative. I really enjoy them!
Would like to ask a question if I may? I purchase herbs from from my local store and I find after they sit out on the counter I get these little nats flying around can you tell me why? I don’t see them in the store when I purchase them, I enjoy using fresh herbs, except for these nats? Thanks Paula
laura cappello says
I really love you info wish I could afford to start growing some plants
Bill McDade says
This video came at a perfect time. Last spring, I planted some border grasses along my property but for some reason, a few of the plants died and I haven’t been able to find any more of the same variety here locally. Now I know how to fix the problem. Thank you!
Arven D Hansen says
I need to know how to and if you can make your own sweet potato plants and how to do it?
Thanks Mike. What do you do with them after dividing? Put them back in the ground? Or do they need to be in pots in a greenhouse for the winter?
Thanks for the tips. I have one for you….
When the plants are just too root bound to divide, and you don’t want to wrestle with a knife to cut it apart, buy a cheap electric carving knife ($10-$15) and keep it as your plant carver. It works great, very fast and easy, even on very tough root balls. It’s a trick I’ve been using for years to trim down my bonsai roots when I let them get too bound up. And you wouldn’t thinks so, but the blades don’t seem to dull down, because they’re serrated, I guess.
Susana Castillo says
I AM NOT ABLE TO OPEN AND VIEW YOUR VIDEO SO I WILL PROBABLY HAVE TO STOP CORRESPONDING WITH YOU…………
Joe Fazz TSS says
Don’t give up.Just copy and past.I’m sure you will get results
JOe fazz TSS
I just dug up some Japanese Silver Grass to divide. I had a couple of clumps that were maybe 18 inches across. I used an ax to cut thru the clumps in order to divide them. I also use a sharpened border shovel to cut thru grasses like this but it is hard work.
Mike LeBlanc says
Would the same process apply to lirope?
Julie Weddle says
Mike, what a blessing you have been to my time in the yard. Today, after watching your video on dividing hostas I dug up mine and separated them and now have plans to enjoy a lovely grouping at the drive up to my home. Keep up the great work.
Sandy Deaton says
Love all the information you share with us. As for the grasses do they need to be pruned when they begin to die back or just leave them be and let mother nature do the dirty work?
Bonnie Veraldi says
I cut mine back when they start looking ratty in late fall. I used to try doing in spring, but was afraid I’d injure new sprout-and if you wait until new sprout appears,it’s REALLY hard.
And Mike makes things so easy to follow,that even though I usually don’t move things once I plant them, wer’e putting on a new front porch, so we did have to move some plantings.
But with Mike’s knowlege, I’m sure they’ll be fine.
Scott Warren says
Most grasses, such as Miscanthus, stay attractive all winter long. When spring comes, just before the grasses begin to grow again, cut them off to about 3 inches high.
Kitty S West says
I love your site. I am handicapped and would like to know if in southern ohio grass plants will live outside over the winter in one gallon pots? I have to garden in pots not beds.
Scott Warren says
Hello !! My experiance as a commercial grower is that even though most grasses that are rated ZONE 5, do very well in the ground or in a White covered, cold frame, They are iffy in containers that are just left out.
As you are handicapped, you may want to look into “Square Foot Gardening”.
As for the grasses, after they go dormant, they may keep well in a garage. Just do not keep them soaking wet, nor let them dry out.
Carol McCain says
My 48 year old son recently passed away and one of the plants we were given at the funeral was a rubber plant. I had it outside and it fell over and some of the leaves broke off. I was upset but I remembered watching your video on rooting, so I thought I would try it. I used rooting powder and put the leaves in potting soil and now I have 3 new plants with new roots. Thamks for your tips.
Jim Bauder says
Thanks! Very surprised how small viable divisions are.
Bob Thoms says
I just watched your video on dividing grass. I have one in a small pot that I grew from seed from a plant in my berm. It has seed heads on it. Can I divide it and put the divisions in some other small pots this fall and also plant the seeds in a pot like I did before? How do I over-winter them? Do I keep them moist or in dry soil? Bob Thoms [email protected]