Question on growth after division

greybird_kekeJuly 23, 2014

Several years ago, I purchased a small Hosta 'Sagae'. For the first two or three years, I thought it had been mislabeled because it never looked like the pictures I'd seen. Then one Spring it must have matured, because the leaves came out big and beautiful, just like it's supposed to.

Last weekend, I decided to redo a bed and fill it with divisions of Hosta I already have. I took a division of that big Sagae, and as I planted it, I wondered if the new growth would start over and be small like it was in those early years, or if the new leaves will be large since it's coming from a mature root?

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leafwatcher(zone 5)

I think it could go either way.. But I imagine if you really took care to separate it without just hacking them apart with shovel and cutting a lot of the roots it will do well ...I thought someone once said on the board that after they flower.. they are mainly storing energy for next year...

I have a couple nice plants that were given to me as a mature section of a large plant.. they mostly continued on as large leafed.. One did go backwards a bit..

Anyhow here is to hoping it has BIG leaves next year ;)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 1:04AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I so agree with Leafwatcher. It took 5 years for my Sagae to "leap" and leap it did! Around the three year mark it started to develop significantly larger leaves, which gave me the clue as to its eventual size. It is THE largest hosta in my garden, followed by Krossa Regal, then Frances Williams, although FW is the oldest of the biggies.

I know the reason it took so long to leap was because I kept dividing and moving it. Once I left well enough alone, it took off.

I did move it last year, three feet over from where it was. It never skipped a beat!

I could go on about some hostas that don't react at all when you divide them and some that do, but that may be due to the hostas growing habit, or pertinent to my growing conditions, or a combination of both, so I won't go into length here. But here is an opportunity for discussion, so I may be back! Lol

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 7:58AM
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funnthsun z7A - Southern VA

Well, this is interesting b/c my answer would have been you'll see smaller leaves next year. Moving is one thing, dividing quite another. Isn't that why we typically see smaller leaves the following year from sellers like Land of the Giants or Hallson's? They've been divided and do go backwards for at least a little while.

If you had just moved them and not divided them, then I would say that you could expect it to go either way, with the possibility of them not missing a beat. But with dividing, I would think you would have at least some amount of going backwards, unavoidably.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 8:34AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

or if the new leaves will be large since it's coming from a mature root?

==>>> it is no longer a mature root mass... once you slice it apart ...

next springs growth ... is a function of how the root mass you planted reacts to the division ... and how much is there ...

if you captured a huge gob of roots... and they survive intact ..... you might be pleasantly surprised at how well it returns ...

if you murdered a slice off the side... then you will have a tiny plant ...

and every derivation in between ....

you have to grow the roots.. to get the plant .... and that is what takes time.. on a lot of these larger plants.. and they all being underground ... you are left to hope and prayer ...

did you take a pic of the roots before you planted them????


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:09AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Funn, true...but there are always exceptions...take for example Undulata Erromena. I have three, two of which were divided from the mother plant last year. Each division has the same sized leaves as mom, whose undisturbed clump (meaning I didn't dig her up, I just severed clumps from it) is larger in diameter, the leaves are the same size. This one is impervious to division or being moved. Another example is Lancifolia - doesn't skip a beat.

Same with Striptease - doesn't skip a beat when divided. Actually, this one thrives after division. Golden Scepter is another, Golden Tiara, Plantaginea, Albopicta, Krossa Regal, etc.these are just at the top of my head.

June was divided last year into several sections as I was culling the solid blue eyes. The majority are growing in full sun, so naturally the leaves are not as large as they would be if the plant was growing in more shade. One particular larger division however, has the same sized leaves as the one under the deck which only receives morning sun. NOTHING upsets June - this hosta is perfection in every aspect.

An exception to the written rule regarding miniatures...Blue Mouse Ears has super sized in volume since I divided it last year...and the leaves on all appear the same size. Actually, let me rephrase that...I can't tell which was the original plant! As I stated earlier, this experience is specific to me.

What is interesting to me is that the names I have just mentioned are hostas of older varieties (most) and I think these are tougher hostas to begin Ken would say, "throw them on the driveway".

Here is another anomaly...I gave my daughter a division of Golden Tiara two years ago. The first year it struggled simply because a squirrell kept digging it up. Today it is bigger leafed than any one of mine!!! Makes me want to trade, LOL.

I had one Tiara and now have three. The spring following division produced same sized leaves as mother hiccup whatsoever.

I think different zones/climates, watering regimen, fertilization program, SOIL, etc. are too many variables to consider to be able to say that all divisions of hostas will produce smaller leaves. Definitely some that are known to be "foo foo" (some of Ken's descriptions have definitely rubbed off on me, lol) will regress to a point but others may surprise you.

For those that don't like surprises or are easily disappointed, you might not want to divide your hostas because there is no guarantee they won't regress, or suffer. I'm just saying that it has been my experience...whenever I've divided any of the hostas I've rhymed off above...that they did not emerge the following growing season stunted in size, or produced smaller leaves. Some actually take right off and grow better than before division. A little stimulation goes a long way - in some cases.

It's all trial and error and that is the exciting aspect of gardening, in my opinion. I love all the little surprises along the way but most of all, I get to know my hostas better each subsequent year. :-)

I also want to say that works for one gardener, doesn't necessarily work for another. At the same time, don't be afraid to experiment in the quest for knowledge. It's quite a ride!

Happy planting and dividing!


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 9:43AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I just read Ken's remarks, especially the root aspect. My second shovel is on its last legs...the handle weakened last year moving Sagae!!! Lol
Very good point about the root system - I think much of my success has to do with the fact that I dig deep and beyond the leaf canopy. Most of the time a division is so intact (no unexposed roots) and replanting immediate, that the plant doesn't even know it's been separated from the mass!

Unless a hosta has been growing in one location, undisturbed for several years, generally speaking the root mass is more wide than deep. I still dig deep because I want to avoid ripping any roots.

I also learned a few things watching Utube videos on how to transplant shrubs, small trees, and large perennials and applied some of that knowledge, with my own variations, to dividing hostas. So far, so good with little to no disappointment. :-)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:00AM
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Thank you for all the interesting responses! I carefully separated the leaves before removing my division, and replanted it immediately. My soil is good because I mulch every year, and so far it doesn't look like it knew it was moved. I look forward to seeing what next year brings!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:18PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Grey bird, I just realized...I don't remember seeing your screen name before....could you be a newbie? If so, WELCOME to the hosta forum!


    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 10:58PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Jo, you gave a very informative answer. I liked reading about the named hosta and your experience with it. I am happy to learn from it.

I wonder whether greybird's situation is a bit different though. It sounds like you have carefully divided your mature hostas with great success. But perhaps greybird's hosta is not quite mature and dividing from an immature hosta gives different results? And as Ken says, the roots are key. The hostas you divided must have had established strong root systems which allowed for continued good growth after division.

So that brings me to the question: "when is the best time to divide a hosta if one wants to produce more plants?" I think the answer is generally in the 3rd or 4th year when you have a jump in growth. But actually if you can wait a little longer, you may even get more divisions. It also depends greatly on the hosta in question. There are slow growers, vigorous growers and everything in between. So if I had divided my Paul's Glory after the second year when it had 5 eyes, I wouldn't have known that in year 3 it would have 17 eyes---a much better time to divide. Then there's Earth Angel, if I divided in the 3rd year when it only had two eyes, I wouldn't have known it was to have 5 eyes the following year. And who knows next year, there may be significant growth again. So I feel waiting several years before dividing is best. By then you should be developing a good strong root system and your hostas will grow without skipping a beat!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2014 at 11:59PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

NHL, thank you. Grey bird referred to a Sagae that was planted "several years ago" so I interpreted "several" as mature. Based on that premise, the division should have a goodly amount of roots with which to grow on. Ken's points are key. Again, many hostas react to being divided. Some don't. It's a crap shoot at best. All you can do is wait it out till the following year to see if you beat the odds, and with which hosta.

Yes, the hostas I've divided were mature...I don't think I've divided anything under five years of age. The youngest of those listed above have been growing here for five-six years, the oldest ten-eleven years. I have split large plants newly purchased from the get go too. That is definitely the easiest way to multiply your stock or share with someone else.

Your conclusions certainly make sense to me....and it's a personal preference. Some people divide only when the tell-tale fairy ring appears and that usually takes several years. I've had a couple of those....around the eight-year mark.

Most people wait impatiently for their hostas to mature (me included). There are certain ones I would grow longer because they are magnificent specimens at maturity...and I don't divide unless family or close friends request it...even then I decide which is going to be split. They've had to wait three years for a couple, lol :-)

I don't think anyone can guarantee that a division from a mature hosta will or will not display mature characteristics the following year. Generally speaking, most have some degree of set-back....all the variables come into play. I am adventurous...sometimes taking a chance pays off. It all depends on your goals I guess. :-)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 2:30AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I have an example of a division of a mature Frances Williams. FW has been under the deck for 10-11 years, undisturbed. It grew close to the brick wall ...not an ideal location for FW, to say the least.

Last fall I dug the entire plant up and divided it, potting the smaller piece and replanting the larger one.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:00AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I had to remove one Golden Scepter which grew in front of FW to make room to replant her at least a foot forward. That was the only hosta I had to move, thank goodness! GS had been growing there for at least eight years.

The following picture shows the same full plant from last year, before division along with a picture taken on June 23/14 of what the bigger division looks like currently.

The clump is smaller, of course, but you be the judge as to the leaf size and overall appearance. It has desiccation marks but they don't show so glaringly this year...give it time...we still have a hot August to go through, groan.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:12AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

This pic was taken on Monday with FW ruling the space. All the plants shown are planted. Ugh, spacing is a problem! It will look better next year! I'll have fun moving things around - again! Lol

Greybird, I apologize for monopolizing your thread. I do hope that your Sagae emerges next year big and proud without any noticeable setback.

This post was edited by josephines67 on Fri, Jul 25, 14 at 4:36

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:22AM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Jo, I agree with everything that you have said. The experience with your hosta and division are a teaching tool for me and others I am sure. And that is what makes this forum great---the opportunity to share and learn.

I understand that you were speaking about dividing mature specimens. I think your success can be attributed to dividing specimens that are 5+ years old. But I am unclear as to how old the Sagae was that Greybird divided. Greybird states that it did not look like Sagae for several years and then "one Spring it must have matured, because the leaves came out big and beautiful." It made me wonder if that indeed was a good time to divide and whether Greybird's newly divided Sagae would continue its growth the following year or experience some decline.

Jo, you did a great job in moving your FW. It doesn't look like it missed a beat. Perhaps the reason that some divisions respond so positively is that they are larger clumps rather than just 1-2 eyes. (I guess that that would be something else we could debate---dividing into 1 or 2 eyes vs. larger clumps)!

Your last photo shows an impeccable garden. Is that your gorgeous new On Stage at bottom left?

Maybe one of us should consider starting a new thread asking how old a hosta should be to divide it---especially if we want more (without setting the plant behind the following year). I think this is a topic that could be a great debate! Don't you?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Jo, thank you for the welcome....I usually hang out at the Succulent and House Plant Forums, but Hosta are my favorite outdoor plant. Here is a photo of one of my gardens with the mature Sagae that I divided....I looked up my records, and I purchased it in 2007. But It probably didn't start getting the big leaves until 2011 or so. I really enjoyed looking at all your hostas, they are beautiful!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Welcome Greybird!

What a lovely combination of hostas! The boulders really frame them beautifully.

What's the name of the dark green one on the right? It's a very nice contrast.

Best wishes,

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:44PM
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AT, the dark green hosta on the right is Albiqua Drinking Gourd. Another one of my favorites!


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 10:55PM
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hostacats(zone 3b)

Newhostalady I agree with waiting for your hostas to be mature with more eyes before dividing them. me sometimes we just can't help it. As for me at the lake, I took six hostas from walmart with as many eyes as I could find and I did the silly thing of dividing them all to one hosta. Yes that makes them smaller, but at the lake they don't get watered often except for rain and when I am there, so I did not want to spend lots of money. All the plants grew except for a few divisions from Sieboldiana elegans. And they are actually flourishing quite well for being on year one from divisions. My Francee's are doing exceptionally well out there. I moved them all again this week when I made yet another flowergarden. Or should I say another hosta garden.

Greybird, I am a newbie on here and these folks have taught me lots in the wee bit of time I have been on here. I can actually recognize a few hostas now without looking at tags!! Woohoo. I love your hosta planted with the rocks looks awesome.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:49PM
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