How To Divide Houseplants

How To Divide Houseplants

Over time, some houseplants may grow so large that dividing them into smaller pieces is the best way to keep them happy. By Doug Jimerson

By Doug Jimerson

Over time, some houseplants may grow so large that dividing them into smaller pieces is the best way to keep them happy so they don't strangle themselves in their pots. Here are our tips for spotting a houseplant that needs dividing with some easy steps on how to divide your houseplants.

Happily, dividing houseplants doesn't take much time, so it's quick and easy to do. And dividing your houseplants can make a world of difference to their health and overall appearance.

To Divide or Not to Divide
Not all houseplants need dividing. In general, faster-growing species that form thick clumps with multiple stems are most likely to require division every few years.

Plants such as the following are good examples of varieties that occasionally require division.  
 > Snake plant 
 > Boston fern 
 > Philodendron 
 > Asparagus fern 
 > Peace lily 
 > African violet
> Cast-iron plant

Single-stemmed species such as indoor trees and those below do not require division. 
 > Corn plant
 > Dracaena
 > Ficus trees
 > Houseplant palms
 > Money tree
 > Norfolk Island pine
 > Ponytail palm

The best time to divide houseplants is in the early spring, just as they are about to put out fresh new growth.

5 Signs Your Plant Needs Dividing

1. Roots Run Wild 
One of most obvious ways to tell if your plant needs to be divided is if its roots sprout through the drainage holes in the pot. And, if you remove the plant from the pot all you will see is a tangled root ball with little soil.

2. Water, Water Everywhere
If moisture pours out of the drainage holes every time you water it’s probably time to divide your plant into smaller pieces. You can move the divisions into new containers.

3. Cracking Up
Sometimes a plant will grow so large that it will actually break the pot. This means your plant is crying out to be divided. Clay pots, in particular, will often split wide open when the plant’s root ball gets too thick.

4. Family Intervention
Some plants develop multiple babies (called pups or offsets) around their base that can eventually crowd the parent. If your plant is surrounded by miniature versions of itself, it’s probably time to divide the whole family.

5. Getting Lightheaded
Some plants indicate their need for dividing by losing vertical control and becoming top heavy or floppy. They also might begin to drop their lower leaves and flowering plants may stop blooming.

How to Divide a Houseplant
Step One
Remove the plant from its pot. Start by holding the plant upside down and tapping on the bottom and side of the pot to loosen and remove the root ball. In some cases where the plant is especially rootbound, you may need to cut or break the pot in order to free the plant.

Step Two
Once your plant its out of its old pot, place the houseplant on a secure surface and use your fingers to loosen the root ball. Then, take a a sharp knife and cut the plant into sections. Make sure each section has a healthy section of roots and a few leaves.

Step Three
Replant divisions as soon as possible in fresh potting mix. Keep them growing at the same level they were; it's important not to plant them too deeply in the soil. Water the divisions and place them in a warm location with bright, indirect light. They may not put on much new growth right away, but once they get established, your divisions grow like new to share with friends or place in other spots around your home. 

Get tips for repotting houseplants! 

Want more? See our guide to houseplant basics.