September 1 Slice of Life Challenge: Dividing the Hostas

These are not my hostas. My hostas were monsters compared to this pretty little plant (Photo Credit: Marc Ryckaert, Wikimedia Commons).

It was time. All summer long Brinton and I had talked about putting in new flower beds, and now it was the end of August. It was now or never.

Our old flower beds weren’t very pretty. Big leathery old hostas took up two gigantic spaces along our front walkway. Tough looking yellow lilies (the color of traffic paint) filled the spaces in between. A useless variety of hydrangea that dies off every winter and doesn’t bloom in Vermont filled the two other beds. And that was that.

I decided to deal with the hostas first. They seemed easy enough. Lord knows you can’t kill them. My plan was to divide up the huge plants and spread them out.

After a few YouTube videos I felt like an expert. Lily and I filled a kiddie pool with water, just like one of the videos suggested — for washing the dirt off of the roots before transplanting. I grabbed my shovel, Lily grabbed her spade, and we got started.

It only took me a minute to realize that my hostas were not like the hostas in any of the videos. First of all, my hostas were giants. Huge seven year old plants, so big, that it took all my strength to lift up the sides of the plant. The roots so were thick and tangled that pulling them apart with my fingers, or even cutting with a knife was laughable. These hostas were not coming apart without a fight.

I could only approximate what I had seen in the videos. Instead of dipping the plants gently into a pool of nice clean water, or showering them gently with the hose, I heaved and dragged the giant mass into the kiddie pool, amazed to realize that just one plant filled the entire pool.

Instead of loose soil easily coming away in the water, my hostas were laden with years of wood chips. Some of it came out in the water, but honestly, not much.

Instead of gently untangling the roots with my fingers, or slicing the mass of roots just a bit to get it started, I actually took a hacksaw to the plant. I sawed that thing into quarters. It was the only way it was ever going to come apart.

Lily had long since gotten bored and had moved on to picking rocks from the flower bed. Exhausted, I dug four holes — one for each quarter of the original plant.

By the time I was finished replanting, the sun was starting to set, and I still hadn’t even touched the other hosta (or the lilies, or the hydrangea). But it was okay. They would be waiting for me tomorrow. And this time, there would be no surprises. I would know how to attack them right from the start.

P.S. Anybody who is an actual gardener reading this might be cringing at my methods. I obviously have no idea what I’m doing. If you happen to know a better way to divide gigantic, tough old hostas, please do share!


8 thoughts on “September 1 Slice of Life Challenge: Dividing the Hostas

  1. I love that you can learn to do anything on YouTube. I don’t always love that it looks so easy on YouTube while in real life it is often more complicated. Good luck with the rest of the hostas.


  2. Beth, I don’t know how to help you with your hostas, but I do know there is definitely a metaphor in here somewhere. For me, I think it’s the importance of doing the field work. You can’t just watch a video or read a book (or sit in a PD session), you have to get out there and do the work… with YOUR hostas. 🙂


  3. I’ve had offers of “free” hostas for years but always turned them down when others talked about their over-powering nature. They look so cute when seen in your picture. However, you didn’t have to take a chainsaw to them so that’s a good thing. I’m a firm believer in plants in pots. When they are really icky, tired, or have served their prupose, they are SO much easier to deal with!

    Good luck with your remaining plans!


  4. Yes, things that sit for a long time grow large and are hard to change but changes can be made. This is exactly what I do with my hostas. Dig, pull and hack! The change is hard but the garden after is glorious. The plants growing in fresh soil settle into a beautiful new garden. You will be so happy when you are done. Just wait till next spring. Change is hard but worth the effort!


  5. I’m clueless when it comes to gardening, so I can’t offer any help. I have “plant bulbs” on my to-do list for the weekend in-between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. That’s about all I can handle!


  6. my hosts are puny little things, don’t do well in dry Colorado. You’ve made me connect to dividing and planting iris, which is time consuming, but it took a big butcher knife to slice them. I’ve been in Costa Rica & seen what machetes can do. I think you probably needed one! Sorry, you’ve made me laugh, but just think of the beauty, eventually. It seems that you did everything well, just waited a few years too long.


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