If you love the aesthetic appeal that potted plants can offer your home, you’ll know that keeping them healthy is essential. But what if your potted plant has become bushy or is producing smaller or fewer leaves and flowers? Can you split a potted plant?
You can split a potted plant to propagate it or encourage healthy growth and aesthetic vigor. However, you can only split certain plant varieties. Those with bulb roots and which clump together are good candidates for splitting. Others, like the euphorbias and columbines, are best left undivided.
In this article, I’ll discuss which potted plants you can split. I’ll also explain the best reasons for splitting a potted plant and how to do it. Let’s get started!
Which Potted Plants Can You Split?
You can’t split any potted plant. Some plants are best left as they are once they are established in the pot.
A good example of plants that shouldn’t be split is those that grow in a single stem. Examples include:
- Corn plant
- Houseplant palm
- Norfolk Island pine
- Money tree
- Ficus trees
- Ponytail palm
- Lavender cotton
- Butterfly weed
- Oriental poppies
- Gas plant
Even though these plants are best left undivided, they can be repotted, and any additional rooted layers can be dug up and planted as divisions.
Plants with bulb roots, a central crown, and those that grow by clumping together are viable candidates for splitting.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of potted plants you can safely split:
- Snake plant
- Boston fern
- Asparagus fern
- Canna lilies
- Chinese evergreen
- Peace lily
- African violet
- Cast-iron plant
- Never-Never plant
- Peace lily
- Palm plant
- Peacock plant
Whichever plant you divide, it’s important to know when the plant is experiencing new growth (usually in spring or fall), as this is the best time to split it.
Reasons to Split a Potted Plant
If you provide them with optimal soil, moisture, temperature, and light conditions, most plants experience healthy growth, with some flowering. However, there may be instances in which splitting the potted plant can be beneficial:
You Want to Propagate the Plant
Propagating a houseplant is an excellent (and inexpensive) way of sharing the joy it brings you with someone else. It’s also a great idea if you want a second potted plant of the same variety.
Most houseplants are best propagated when they have finished flowering but are still in an active growth period. This means that the new plant will grow healthy roots and keep growing.
Your Potted Plant Has Outgrown Its Container
Plant density refers to the amount of a plant (or the number of plants) occupying a unit of ground or soil. Increased plant density improves the growing plant size per area. However, it also decreases the size of the plant’s foliage, flowers, and seeds and causes less branching and tillering.
Increased plant density means your potted plant has outgrown its current container. In this case, you have various options available:
Dividing a potted plant is a good option because it helps reduce the original plant’s size, creates new plants through splitting, and facilitates better plant growth.
Your Potted Plant’s Growth Rate Is Slow
Plants need enough space, air, water, light, and soil nutrients to flourish and grow healthily. If it has overgrown the pot, it may lack some of these resources. As a result, it may show unhealthy and reduced foliage, poor flowering or podding, and a tendency to wither or dry in extreme cases.
Dividing the potted plant can rejuvenate it and reclaim its vigor and bloom.
In the next section, I’ll list the signs of unfavorable potted plant growth, which clearly indicate that your potted plant needs splitting for better growth.
Your Plant Is Growing But Not Flowering
It’s best to split a potted plant when it’s putting on new growth but not flowering. This usually happens from spring to fall but can vary from plant to plant.
Here’s why you should split your potted plant in the growth season:
- New shoots and leaves won’t feel the stress of splitting as older, full-grown stems and leaves would.
- Plants store up energy in the growth period. This energy will help the plant to recover the stress of splitting faster.
- The divided plant has time to recover from the strain of splitting in the remainder of the growth period.
After splitting the potted plant and replanting the divisions, it’s more likely that they will flower.
Signs Your Potted Plant Needs Splitting
Most plants require splitting every 1-3 years when they become overcrowded in the pot. When a plant has increased density and has outgrown the pot, it will show some signs that it’s ready for splitting.
Below are some signs your potted plant needs splitting:
- The roots are running wild. This is especially noticeable in roots that pop out through the pot’s drainage holes. It indicates that the roots don’t have enough space to spread out inside the pot.
- The pot has cracks. If a plant grows so large that it cracks the pot, it’s a clear sign that it needs to be divided or repotted. The problem is that the plant’s root ball is too large for the container, and splitting it will give it a better environment for growth.
- It has several offshoots or baby sprouts. If your potted plant has several offshoots at the base, it’s time to give the new sprouts their own space for growth. New sprouts can crowd the mother plant and compromise its growth.
- Water easily runs out of the potholes. When you pull out a plant that has outgrown the pot, the root section will often manifest as a tangled root ball with very little soil between the roots. This is why the water will often run past the roots and out of the potholes when you water it. It’s also a clear sign your plant needs more space and soil, which dividing the plant can provide.
- The plant has poor growth. If a plant doesn’t have optimal growth conditions in the pot because it has outgrown the container, it will show several signs, such as being top-heavy or withered and dropping lower leaves. It might also show smaller or fewer leaves, seeds, and flowers or skip blooming altogether.
How To Split a Potted Plant
Splitting a potted plant is relatively easy, but you need to do it right to ensure you don’t kill the plant or plant the new one in vain.
How you split a potted plant can vary with the type of plant, but the steps are generally the same.
Here’s how to split a potted plant:
Prepare for Splitting
Water your plant and the soil 24 hours before you plan to propagate it. Do the same for the soil in which the propagated plant will go. This will ensure that the plant is well-hydrated when you pull it out of the pot and that the soil in the new pots is moist enough to sustain the new plant.
You should also consider pruning the leaves. Most plants will grow better if your prune the leaves by one third before transplanting. This can also help reduce the stress of dividing and transplanting.
Gently Pull Out the Plant From the Pot
To remove the plant from the pot, hold it upside down or horizontally and tap on the bottom of the pot to loosen the root ball. Then, gently pull out the plant from the pot.
If the plant’s roots are bound to the pot, gently pass a garden knife along the interior walls of the pot to loosen the roots and try removing the plant again. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to break the pot.
Split the Plant
Once you remove the plant from the pot, put it aside so it can’t get damaged, and loosen the root ball with your fingers.
Use a sharp knife to split the plant roots into sections while ensuring that each section has some leaves or a stem. Make sure that the knife is clean so that you don’t transmit any bacteria into the plant cutting.
Plant the Divisions
Plant the propagated plant in the pots you prepared. Water them and place them in a location with optimal light, temperature, and humidity conditions.
Your new plants may not show immediate growth and may seem like they’re withering initially. However, they will show signs of healthy growth once they’re established in their new environment.
Not all potted plants can be split. If you want to propagate your plant, check the list in this article to see if you can split yours.
Potted plants can be split to create new ones or when they have increased in density. This will facilitate better growth and plant vigor.
Splitting a potted plant is easy, but following the steps proposed above will ensure your divided plants will be well established in their new pots.
Good luck with splitting your potted plant!