Dividing Your Houseplants

One of the fastest methods of turning one plant into two—or several—is the process of division. Before you get worried, I promise that no actual math will be required for this simple plant-care method. 

Division is an excellent technique to use when your mature plants have become root-bound in their container. Unlike propagation, which uses cuttings taken from a parent plant to grow a new plant, division involves the separation of a mature plant into multiple sections. These sections, each of which should include a healthy portion of foliage and share of the root-ball, will all grow into their own plants—and because the roots are already fully formed, they can be potted immediately. And just like that, you’ve multiplied by dividing!

Here’s what you need to get started: 

  1. A sharp, clean knife for cutting 
  2. A hard, flat surface for working 
  3. Fresh soil and containers to pot your new plants

What kinds of plants can be divided?

There are many different candidates for division, but you’ll generally want to use well-established plants that have multiple stems, or which grow in thick clumps. Here are some common household plant varieties that respond well to division: 

  • Ferns
  • Palm
  • Peacock Plant 
  • Spider Plant
  • Prayer Plant 
  • Peace Lily 
  • Sansevieria (Snake Plant)

When is the right time to divide?

Division is often best employed when it’s to the benefit of the plant itself. For instance, if you’ve noticed that roots have started creeping through your pot’s drainage holes, or that your plant has stopped blooming, or started dropping its lower leaves, it may be time to divide. Breaking up a dense root-clump will give your plant a refresh that it may be desperately in need of! 

You may also choose to divide because your plant is putting up new shoots. For example, once Sansevieria becomes root-bound, it usually starts to send up little green pups. This is cause for celebration, because most snake-plants are very slow growers. But if the family gets a little crowded (and whose doesn’t?), it’s time to relocate the pups into their own containers where they can make pups of their own. You know, like life. 

The best way to tell if it’s time to divide your plant is to remove the root-clump from the pot. This might be a challenge, depending on the size and shape of your pot! Try turning your plant upside down and gently tapping the bottom and sides of the pot to break up the packed dirt, but if that doesn’t work it’s sometimes best to carefully break the pot in order to free the roots inside.

Once you’ve freed your plant from its pot, look to see if the roots are mature enough to divide. If your roots are thick, tangled, and intertwining, you’re ready to get mathematical!

How to Divide: Three Easy Steps! 

  1. Preparing the Plant:

    Now that it’s free from its pot, place your plant on a flat surface and gently break up the root ball. Use your fingers to loosen all the knots and tangles in the roots, smoothing them out for more convenient cutting. Because you’ll want a good clear view of your whole root clump, you’ll want to shake off as much of the old soil as possible.

  2. Dividing:

    Using a sharp, clean knife, divide your plant up into sections. Each section should include at least a few leaves and a healthy portion of roots.

  3. Pot:

    Begin repotting your plant immediately, using fresh soil with good drainage. You’ll want your plant to have plenty of room to grow, but not be dwarfed by its pot, so choose a container that will result in a roughly 3-1 soil-to-plant ratio. Keep your soil damp but not wet. As soon as your plant starts putting up new growth, you’ll know for sure that it’s rooted and healthy. 

Not only is division an excellent way to turn one plant into multiple, it’s also a necessary tool for plant maintenance that will keep your ferns, peace lilies, and sansevierias happy and healthy. We hope that you feel confident adding division to your repertoire, and look forward to hearing about your plant journey! If you have any questions about plant division, please reach out to us @houseofplantlovers. Happy growing!

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