Inch by Inch: Division equals multiplication

Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Sustainable Maine

Inch by Inch: Division equals multiplication

The vegetable and fruit gardens are winding down, now, so it's time to consider your flower beds.


Bulb gardens — spring flowers such as tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and iris, and summer flowers such as lilies — are great in Maine, because they don't have to be fussed over, except for this one time of year when you should dig them up and see if your bulbs are ready to divide. 

The bulb on the left is a new bulb that you would buy from a nursery, ready for fall planting. The one on the right is a bulb you might dig up in your own garden after several years of blooming.

The one on the right is ready to be divided. To divide, simply pull the bulb apart into as many bulbs as you can detect. In this case, there are three bulbs. Try to keep some of the root system intact on the bulb as you do so.

If you had had time, you could have divided your spring bulbs as early as June, and your summer bulbs as early as August, but you were busy with the vegetable garden then.  No problem; you can still divide bulbs and replant them. If you don't divide, the small bulbs will not grow flowers, only foliage. If you divide, a new flower will grow from each bulb segment.

From now until November, when the ground gets too hard to work, you can divide your bulb gardens and increase your bulb flowers next spring and summer. Establish a second bed if you have a lot of bulbs in a particular area; share with friends if you have too many.

Rosa Rugosa

It's still a little too early to divide the suckers on your rugosa plants, but in October, the foliage will be done. Dig down below the surface of the soil and cut the sucker stem from the parent plant, and remove it, then plant it in a deep hole elsewhere. You can also try planting some of your lovely rose hips ... they may well take in an otherwise unlovely spot.


One of the color groups still growing in your garden is likely to be your Michaelmas daisies, which bloom in late September. When they are finished blooming, use a sharp garden spade to break the root clumps into parts. They should grow easily next summer and fall. The same is true of shade plants, such as hostas, and perennials such as hydrangeas, but wait until the plants are dormant before attempting division.

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