|The clump before dividing. It was probably a little over 2 feet high and wide.|
After mustering my courage enough to commit to trying to divide the clump, I did some research. Not much is out there on dividing beargrass, and some of the few sources I did find said that all of their divisions died. Hardly a reassuring start. Finally, I did find one site that at least gave a time of year to try dividing beargrass. While I've never been particularly impressed with the information on this website before, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the attempt. Besides, the recommendation was to divide it in spring, and I kind of wanted to do it now anyway. Convenient, that.
For once I assembled all the tools I would need BEFORE starting. I decided the two garden forks would work best to pry the clump apart. When handling beargrass, it is a good idea to wear gloves, as the sharp leaf edges can shred your fingers to ribbons if you aren't careful.
It was surprisingly easy to dig up, the root ball being only slightly larger than the top growth. Somehow I found a slightly more likely spot to make the first division, and in went the forks. It wasn't as difficult as I anticipated to prise the clump apart. Make no mistake, though, this is a plant that likes to stay in one piece. It's rather attached to itself.
After the first division I could actually see how the individual rosettes were connected by very short, thick rhizomes. I could also see new roots starting, so I think this really was the best time to attempt this questionable act. (In hindsight, though, I might have waited until after this week which is supposed to bring 80+ degree weather.)
There were a few casualties, growths that broke off without any roots.
I left 2 large clumps with good root systems and put them back in the same bed. I know it will grow in this bed and hopefully these clumps at least will survive.
These are the remaining divisions from the clump. The two with the big root balls I am hoping will do well. I have less confidence in the other four, particularly the single growths on the bottom with hardly any roots.
Five of the divisions went into a new bed (I don't think I've covered that project yet. Bad blogger! Who needs to see things in order anyway?) where I moved some things in desperate need of planting ANYWHERE (seriously, I just needed to get them in the ground somewhere, and this spot was already relatively clear). This bed has two persimmons that I grew from seed (I think the seeds were from 'Mead' persimmons, but who knows if they'll be any good for eating. At least they are good ornamentals.), two Calycanthus floridus, a pine seedling from a rather nice but poorly placed pine that used to grow in the bed in the middle of the circular driveway, three Kalmia latifolia 'Bullseye' placed near the center (I'm hoping the calycanthus and some of the other plants will help protect the kalmias from the deer, which will munch on kalmias with some gusto), and three sword ferns I removed from the wall in the driveway bed (when you have multiple acres of naturally occurring sword ferns, they can be a bit weedy). This bed is only a few yards away from Stump St. Helens, where the original clump of beargrass grew, so I am hopeful that some at least will survive.
I have no idea if any of these divisions will survive their traumatic experience, even the two large ones that stayed in Stump St. Helens. But given how frail the plant was when I first rescued it, I'm hopeful that at least some of these divisions will live. Needless to say, I'll be watching these closely (and anxiously) this summer.