Are You Supposed To Divide Roses In Your Garden?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, well, kind of. The quality of the rose depends on how you grow it. Any seasoned gardener will tell you the best way to handle an overgrown garden is by splitting or dividing your flowering bushes. Simply put, this means that you dig up part of the bush, split it into multiple parts, and plant them in different sections so they have the space to grow and bloom.

Here's the problem, dividing the bush is excellent for most perennials but not roses. It turns out that splitting your rose bush can be quite damaging to the plant. Rose bushes are notoriously finicky, a constant source of frustration for many gardeners, as they are often the focal point of a well-appointed garden. Don't panic just yet, though; dividing a rose bush is risky, but it's not impossible. Sometimes it must be done for the good of your flowers.

It might sound intimidating to dig up and replant your favorite flowers, but we've got you covered. Below we dig in (get it?) to when you should and should not divide your roses and exactly how to do it.

When to divide your roses

Even though it's not advisable, sometimes splitting up your roses is necessary to save the plant. First, there are a few telltale signs that it's time to take action regarding your perennials. Start by observing the plant and asking yourself a few questions. 

Does the rose bush have enough space to grow? Or has it grown so well in recent years that it's crowding its neighbors? If you're a devoted plant parent, you are likely paying close attention to your plants year around. If you notice that in recent years your roses have lost their luster, or aren't blooming quite as well, then it is likely they are overcrowded. Another telltale sign is a ring on top of your bush. Gardeners call this a doughnut. It is essentially a dead spot surrounded by healthy leaves that create a doughnut hole-esque look. If you see any of these signs, it's time to move your bush.

Just as important is understanding when to should NOT divide your bush. Split the bush if it's a question of the plant's health. If you want more flowers in other parts of your yard, simply propagate the plant by cutting off a healthy new growth and replanting it. If you do this in the peak bloom, then by next year, you should have a beautiful new rose bush to enjoy.

How to divide your roses

If you've assessed the health of your plant and decided that it is necessary to split it and move part of it to another part of the garden, then there are a few steps you'll need to follow to ensure you maintain the health of your roses To successfully move part of your bush, you'll need to wait for the right weather. This usually means spring because roses are easiest to plant in damp and cold (but not freezing!) soil. For best results, wait until just after it rains. If you move the shrub on a wet day, it can immediately begin absorbing moisture and nutrients from the soil — something that becomes much more complex if the ground is overly dry.

Now for the actual dividing part. First things first, prune the leaves. You're going to be splitting up the roots, so there will be fewer nutrients coming in for both the original plant and the one you split off, which means it's crucial to cut back on some leaves the roots need to support. Then, carefully dig up the plant, including all the roots. Next, you'll trim and separate the roots, aiming to have at least four solid offshoots for each plant. Finally, after all that, you can breathe a sigh of relief, replant the original, and move the separated part to a shallow, freshly dug hole. If done correctly, both plants should be healthy and blooming in no time.