How to divide plants without being noticed, 9-17-15

When iris rhizomes get too crowded, the things that look like carrots on top of the soil will touch each other, or even overlap. Heather Hacking – Enterprise-Record

Am I a thief, or a garden hero, a protector of plants, a defender of the nurtured world?

Here’s my version of the story.

I lived in a little house for 18 years. The biggest room in my house was the little garden, where things blossomed and grew.

That little house needed a lot of repairs, and I moved into the little house directly next door.

Twenty feet separates the two front doors and I can see “my” old garden quite clearly.

Before I left, I took what seemed sane to transport. Yet, some of the plants seemed better off where they were planted.

Also, I was right next door. I could dig them up later.

A nice lady moved into my old house, but she didn’t live there for long.

She had a vast collection of plants in pots, which she tended like a watchful mother. However, she never took a hose to the rest of “my” yard.

This was not a pleasant experience.

I watched as some plants were tortured by hot sun and neglect.

The roses, thankfully, were within reach. Naturally, I watered those from my side of the fence.

Next, a very nice, cute young couple moved in.

They’ve been there nine months, and NOT ONCE, have I seen them turn on a hose.

One could argue they are the best, most conscientious of drought observers. You could argue that if the lilac dies, it wasn’t the right plant for this climate.

The lavender and sage will probably be fine. The roses, of course, I have continued to water from my side of the fence.

Then I did what I did.

I ventured over to “my” old yard and had a look around.

Was there anything I could salvage?

Months ago I had divided a clump of purple bearded iris, and plopped half a dozen plants along the dry edge of my new yard.

Nobody noticed the irises had been thinned.

I thought it would be the same with the succulents the former neighbor had left behind.

This week the young man knocked on the door to borrow a hacksaw.

“I used to have some succulents like this at the side of the house, but now they are gone,” he said while standing over the succulent plant I had transplanted from his yard.

I did not hesitate in my confession and apology.

“I just love plants and it was hard to see those things go without water.”

“But aren’t those the kind of plants that don’t need much water,” he asked.

He certainly had me there.

Did he want them back? Could I offer him a basil plant near the end of its life?

Could I bring him some kale later this fall?

He was absolutely, 100 percent cool about the entire thing, but I still felt like I giant dirt ball.

Now what about those roses, just on the other side of the fence?

This did not seem like the right time to bring up the subject.


You should divide irises every 3-5 years, otherwise they will stop blooming.

Look into the clump and you’ll see the rhizomes, which look a lot like dull-colored carrots on top of the soil.

Attached to the fleshy carrots are roots.

Using a shovel, gently loosen the soil and raise the dirt about six inches under the rhizomes.

You should be able to separate the individual rhizomes. If they are stuck together, cut them apart with a knife.

. If you break a few, no worries. If most of the rhizome is intact, the plant will grow.

Be gentle with the roots and carefully move the plant to its new location. Some people snip off all but a few inches of the leaves from the top.

If gifting to a friend, transport the irises in a box so the roots are not jostled.

As for the rhizomes in the original location, the rhizomes should be spaced so they do not touch each other.

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