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Dividing Houseplants

Martha Stewart Living, September 2000

Do You Know?

Houseplants frequently drop their leaves in response to a sudden environmental changes such as temperature fluctuations, hot or cold drafts, and changes in light from sunny to dark.

Spring, when plants are poised for summer growth, is the best time for major maintenance like dividing. Divide and repot a plant once it has several stems at the crown and fills its container. Cutting into the plant stimulates the production of plant hormones that promote new growth, and as long as each division has its share of healthy roots, it will take off quickly.

1. Turn the plant and pot upside down, and supporting the soil with your open hand, tap the bottom of the pot with your other hand, or tap the edge of the pot against a hard surface to gently ease the plant out of its container. Spread the plant across a work surface, keeping as much potting mix as possible around the roots. Look for clumps of stems approximately the size of the plants you want. Tease the rooted clumps apart with your fingers, or divide them with a knife or spade. Before repotting, pick out damaged scraps of stem.

2. Set the divisions in pots slightly wider and deeper than the plants' root mass. Backfill with potting mix to 1/2 inch below the rim of the pot to allow a water well, tamp the mix, water thoroughly, and set the plants in filtered light for a few days.