I supposed to divide Heuchera?

mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)August 20, 2011

I've noticed a handful of my coral bells are on the decline, ones that I've had 4-5 years that were previously strong growers - they are reduced to puny little things with a small new leaf or two here or there coming up. Thought I read somewhere they need to be divided every so often - is that correct? Or are coral bells generally short-lived and I should just replace them?

If you think division will rejuvenate them, how do you go about doing that task? Have never divided a coral bell, am clueless...

"Silver Scrolls":

Look how puny the one on the left looks compared to the other one:

Another comparison pic, this time "Midnight Rose":

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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I don't know if "in need of division" is your problem, but those plants don't look terribly happy. However if you haven't done anything with them in 4-5 years, it could be. I usually divide mine every 3 years or so. If I leave them go much longer, they really start looking ugly with lots of dead stuff in the middle.

In my garden at least, this is the time of year to do the dividing. I've tried both late summer and spring and the ones done now always do better and look great by spring.

It's really easy. Dig the whole clump out of the ground - I prefer a garden fork - and it should kind of fall into pieces or the rhizomes can be gently pulled apart. As long as each piece has a few roots, it will survive. I pull or cut off all the dead leaves, replant and that's about it. I usually separate each dug plant into individual rhizomes. I don't replant clumps of rhizomes. Once again, in my experience, the individual rhizomes do much better than replanting clumps of rhizomes. Keep watered of course.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 3:02PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


after the summer we have had in MI .. i hope you are planning out your mid-sept work...


    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 3:47PM
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there's not much there to divide. A big problem with heuchera is that the crowns often heave in the winter and cause havoc. And just from normal growing, the crowns lift out of the ground. Its best to divide periodically and replant the crowns at the right level.

I would dig it out and examine it to see if there's a viable root system. Replant it as needed or chuck it.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 4:05PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

So, am I understanding this right: Divide the heuchera before they show signs of decline - ?, now is too late, the damage is done - ?

Ken: No, I'm planning out the Labor Day weekend work. After that I'm out of commission for a while, what with 2 jobs, a mentorship, grad school and all :0)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 5:07PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

No, it's never too late to do something with them. Last summer, I found the tiniest remnants of a heuchera I had completely forgotten about for years. There was almost nothing left of it. I dug it, cleaned off all the dead stuff and old rhizomes, replanted it and this spring it was well on it's way to becoming a nice plant once again.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 3:04PM
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Some cultivars are more vigorous than others, so it depends.

A year ago in early spring when (daffs in mid-season & no tulips yet) I received thick woody crowns of Palace Purple with barely any roots (just stems emerging with tiny leaves) wrapped in burlap from a plant swap, so I cut them up with pruners with each having a bit of the crown & a shoot forming or present & planted in 4" pots with a blend of soil (leaf mold + potting soil). Some I just planted out directly by making a hole in the soft soil with my finger, put it in, then formed soil around it, & kept moist in part sun/shade. After about a month I had the beds & large planters ready, so transplanted. I lost a few of them, but most showed white roots. By the end of summer the largest ones in the large planters were 12-15" mounds.

Again this past spring some were heaved up a bit with woody crowns still, so I cut them up to replant more divisions a bit deeper.

I've left the largest Palace Purples in the planters alone because they're looking great. Even now currently in bloom.

I did the same thing with another type of heuchera with a woody crown 12" long with shoots every which way. The tiniest one didn't survive, but the others did even blooming this summer.

I have Caramel in a hanging planter with purple ajuga & some pansies. Last spring I replanted part of the pot adding some annuals, but didn't do anything this spring, so will divide next. It's slow to wake up in spring, so I will do it a bit later than Palace Purple.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 12:06AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

I just finished dividing all of mine, all 4 to 5 year olds. I had a whole bucket full of extra's then! :) Gave some to the neighbors too. This was like 3 weeks ago and now they are filling in nicely. I only hope they stop growing topside for the coming winter on time! lol
Easy to do and should make a great difference. Mine were all getting smaller by the year, so they needed it. There is a video on dividing heuchera's and that's what I followed...

Here is a link that might be useful: Dividing heucheras

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 5:32PM
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I divide mine when they are larger than a dinner plate and I want to grow more for myself or sell. I don't do it for the health of the plant. I have some that do well, and some go into decline. I blame the voles for tunneling under and destroying the roots for the ones that do badly. And usually when I dig them I'm right. If you have tunnels a few inches down that are NOT visible on the top (not a bump like a mole tunnel), then you might have voles too.

If that's not the case move the unhappy ones and see if they do better elsewhere in your yard. Try to change up the amount of light and water with this second placement and figure out what yours are missing. It will take 'til next summer to see the difference if you move them now.

hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 8:47AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Thanks for posting that video - was helpful. I'm heading outside for an afternoon of yard work, will work on the Heuchera. :0)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 11:53AM
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