Dividing Hydrangeas – what you need to know

Dividing Hydrangeas – what you need to know

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Image by Jan van Winsen from Pixabay

If you have hydrangeas in your garden you know that they are a beautiful spring and summertime shrub. They bring myriad colors to any garden so it makes sense that you might want to increase the beauty you have. But can you split hydrangeas? Yes. Splitting hydrangeas are much easier than you think.

What you will need:

  • A shovel
  • A pitchfork
  • Pick or axe
  • Rope or twine
  • Garden clippers or shears
  • Topsoil and mulch

Splitting Hydrangeas

So, why would you want to split or divide your hydrangea?

There are a couple of reasons. In one situation you simply might want to increase what you have in your garden. In another your hydrangea might have outgrown its surroundings. More to the point your hydrangea could be crowding out other plants within your garden and you want to divide it so that there’s still a beautiful shrub but not one that’s taking over all of your space. So, whether you want to divide your hydrangea because it’s overgrown or you simply want to split up a beautiful specimen so that you could have two equally spectacular bushes, it can be done.

How to divide your hydrangeas

Most varieties of hydrangeas can be successfully divided. They will grow very quickly and they do require a lot of space so they are typically divided and spread out.

It’s important to note that to split hydrangeas the plant need to have at least 2 stems coming from ground level, many as the grow will have one main stem and then several smaller offshoots (sometimes large off-shots) from ground level. These are perfect for splitting.

Step 1

The best time to divide your hydrangea is in the fall when the leaves have already fallen and your bush is preparing to go into its dormancy. The alternative time frame is the beginning of Spring right before any new growth appears. So these are the only two times that you should start dividing your hydrangea.

Step 2

The day before you split your hydrangea make sure to water it thoroughly but don’t soak it. Then leave it and come back to it the next day.

Step 3

Tie the limbs using rope or twine so that it’s divided easily into sections. You want to do this for two reasons. First, to make it easier for you to transport your shrub and keep everything contained and second to expose the stem so that you have much more convenient access when you get ready to dig.

Step 4

Dig up the root ball by digging a perimeter around your bush approximately 2 feet from the main stem. Use your shovel to make deep sharp cuts and then loosen the roots from the soil if possible but don’t ever sever the roots. Remove that root ball but be careful, given the size of your hydrangea it might be incredibly heavy and this could be a two-man job. For this reason you might need a pick or an ax to remove it after it’s well-established. You’ll know if your hydrangea is a much-older plant and if it is, bring heavier tools to excavate.

Step 5  

Divide your root ball. The depth and width of the roots as big as they might be are good indicators for how healthy your hydrangea is. Using a shovel and possibly your pitchfork, divide the root ball into however many sections you need. Place the blade in the shovel into the middle of the root ball and then apply pressure evenly in order to sever equal sized root balls from the main root ball. If you’re going to make four or more it is recommended that you still divide down the center into two equal parts and then further divided from there. For most hydrangea bushes it’s better to divide either into or four sections but not necessarily more than that.

Step 6

After you have major divisions, plant your hydrangeas in their new homes. It’s best to plant on a day when there is overcast in the sky so that they don’t burn. Fill the whole partially with water and loosen the soil around the roots so that the roots are able to move about and penetrate quickly. Once you have put it in the whole add topsoil and manure or compost to really provide the nutrients it needs to establish itself. The depth of the hole needs to be the same as the original hole you dug for the root ball. Make sure that the soil mark on the stem of your reaches to the same soil line. Don’t plant it deeper than that.

Step 7

Add mulch around the recently divided hydrangeas and then water them deeply with a slow drip method if possible over the course of the next several hours. After the first day or so your hydrangea will likely droop but it will pick up again by the end of the week. Make sure you water thoroughly throughout the summer because a recently transplanted or divided hydrangea is going to require more water to get its roots deep into the ground and suck up all those nutrients.

Once you have completed this task just keep an eye on your plants throughout the summer. This method is very successful and you will get beautiful hydrangeas that start to take off after just a few weeks.

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