Plant Division FAQs

What methods are used for propagating orchids? I have a small collection but would like more.

The method you use depends entirely on the type of orchids. Cymbidiums, for example, have squat, fattened stems called pseudobulbs and these can be removed and potted up individually. Vandas and pleiones are increased by offshoots, which are removed from the parent plants and potted individually. Dendrobiums can be increased by plantlets growing on the parent. These can be carefully removed when they start to put out roots, and transplanted into small pots. I would suggest that you invest in a good orchid book for beginners.

How do I take a cutting of an aspidistra?

Aspidistra and other clump-forming houseplants such as popular mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) are most effectively propagated by division. Remove the old plant from its pot and split it up. A single leaf with a bud and a few roots attached will grow if potted into a small pot of sandy compost.

When is the best time to divide pampas grass?

Old clumps are best divided in the spring when they are just starting into growth. They have a better chance to establish than plants divided in autumn. The crowns of old clumps may be exceptionally tough and these will need to be cut off with a sharp knife.

I have a large New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) in my front garden which is getting a little too large for space available. It appears to be made up of several plants. Can these be divided and transplanted elsewhere?

Yes—in spring lift the plant and clean the soil from around the roots. Remove the offsets together with their own roots and plant them individually as soon as possible in their new positions.

A friend has asked me for some cuttings from plants in my garden. He has told me that I can divide herbaceous plants, of which I have plenty. Is he right? I would not like to spoil them.

Division is an easy way to propagate herbaceous plants, and is best done as a matter of course every three to five years to keep plants vigorous. It can be done in the autumn, but plants with fleshy crowns are best divided in early spring so that the largest buds can be seen. Large clumps are lifted and separated with the aid of two garden forks, which are pushed into the centre, back to back, and forced apart; or with a knife. Each piece should have several buds and plenty of young roots, or it may fail to establish itself.

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