Gardening Magazine

Dividing an Ornamental Grass

By John Markowski @jmarkowski0

How awesome is this Red Switch Grass (Panicum) 'Rotstrahlbusch'? Dividing an ornamental grass
By early to mid summer, this grass looks fantastic and is a consistent performer year after year.
So what do you say we make some more?
I divided this warm season grass once before, about 3 years ago, and turned one plant into four. Here are two of the four as of summer 2012: 
Dividing an ornamental grass
Not quite full size but definitely on their way.
The grass to be divided for today, sits at the corner of my deck and has clearly outgrown its space as seen in the two pics below:
Dividing an ornamental grass
Dividing an ornamental grass
So there was no better time than now to get down and dirty and cut me up some ornamental grass.
The first step was to dig a trench around the perimeter of the grass so it could be lifted out of the ground and cut into pieces:
Dividing an ornamental grass
And that sounds a hell of a lot easier than it truly was. We're talking major shovel work and pounding and serious assistance from a giant shale bar. The root ball was covered in sticky ass clay (shocker) and so heavy, that I couldn't lift it out of the hole.
Originally I thought about chopping away at the grass while it was still planted in the ground but the effort was futile. I couldn't chop through the roots cleanly enough so I moved on to plan B where I settled on lifting the plant out of the ground just enough so I could then chop it up into smaller pieces.
Exhibit A - 1/2 of the grass in the front with 1/4 pieces in the back:
Dividing an ornamental grass
The cuts were relatively clean and I know this process worked in the past so I was ready to do the same again. All I know is, thank the heavens for inventing the shale bar:
Dividing an ornamental grass
I then moved on to cutting the 1/2 piece into 1/4 pieces and that couldn't have been easier. A few massive stabs and boom:
Dividing an ornamental grass
I now had four grass divisions to work with. One went back into the same hole it just came from but moved away from the deck a bit more so I won't have to divide again for a few years.
Another went to a new locale fillling in where an arborvitae had recently been removed:  
Dividing an ornamental grass
I then decided to cut the two remaining 1/4 divisions in half. If my mathematical genius serves me correctly, I now had four 1/8 sections left to plant.
I planted them all near each other at the edge of the woods on my property figuring they would have plenty of time to mature into a nice mass of kick ass grass: 
Dividing an ornamental grass
This project felt awesomely painful and was a stark reminder that my nearly 41 year old body isn't what it once was. Wait ... check that ... I still got it and could keep up with any twentysomething. I ain't giving in that easily.
I'm even proud of all the cuts and bruises I'm dealing with now as a result. The sting in the shower was a reminder that gardening season was friggin back.
All in a day's work.

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By Kathryn Lynne Howell Cites
posted on 08 January at 08:21

I just did this and my 52 year old body got it done. People driving by looked at me like I was an idiot but after I dug around it I still couldn't get it out of the hole so I used my yankee ingenuity. I drove two flat shovels as far as I could underneath side by side, then I jammed the spade shovel in between and on top of them. This dispersed the pressure so I didn't snap my handles and I could use my body weight to press simultaneously on them and plopped it out. I had to use a splitting maul to divide it but it is done. Now to fill the crater I left behind.