Issue 52 Dividing Bulbs — Dividing Grape Hyacinths

Dividing grape hyacinthsWhy buy more bulbs when you can divide the ones you have? With just a little digging, you can get lots of new starts from a cluster of bulbs like this. When the flowers are past but the foliage is still standing, it’s time to divide these grape hyacinths. (This is a good rule of thumb with other spring bulbs, too.)

Dig up clump.Step one — With a spade or garden fork, gently lift the clump. Slide the fork into the ground far enough from the bulbs that you don’t damage them. If you loosen the soil all the way around the clump first, it won’t fall apart as you lift it. You need to be able to see what you’re working with, so crumble as much of the soil off the bulbs as you can.
Pull clump  apart.Step two — Here you can see the clump of bulbs and all the new offsets. Break the big cluster into a few smaller pieces, then gently break off individual bulbs. If there are any loose roots or foliage, you can pull them off and discard them. You’ll want to keep the biggest and best bulbs to replant and throw the little ones and the remains of the old clump onto your compost pile. If there are still tiny bulbs firmly attached to the base of some of the largest ones, leave them attached when you replant. Offsets that are ready to be divided will separate easily from the clump.
Replant bulbs.Step three — Now for the fun part! First, decide where you’d like your new grape hyacinths. The easiest way to plant bulbs is to plant several at a time in one big hole, as I’m showing you here. So dig a wide, shallow hole, 3 to 4 inches deep and sprinkle a handful of bulb fertilizer on the bottom of the hole. Then brush some loose soil over the fertilizer so it doesn’t come in direct contact with the bulbs and burn them. Set the bulbs a few inches apart, then fill in the hole and firm the soil down. Water your bulbs, and then you’re all set for next spring. Grape hyacinths usually send up some new foliage in the fall, but don’t worry — they’re not getting ready to bloom out of season. That’s just their habit.