What is Bulb Division?

Bulb division is a method of propagating plants that involves separating bulbs into smaller sections and replanting them to create new plants. This technique is commonly used for bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and lilies, which have a central bulb from which new shoots and flowers emerge. By dividing the bulbs, gardeners can increase their stock of these plants and rejuvenate older bulbs that may have become overcrowded or less productive.

How Does Bulb Division Work?

The process of bulb division begins by carefully digging up the bulbs from the ground or removing them from their containers. It is important to handle the bulbs gently to avoid damaging them. Once the bulbs are out of the ground, they can be inspected for any signs of disease or damage. Bulbs that are healthy and free from any issues can then be divided into smaller sections.

When is the Best Time to Divide Bulbs?

The best time to divide bulbs depends on the specific type of plant. In general, bulbs should be divided when they are dormant, which is typically in the fall or early spring. Dividing bulbs in the fall allows them to establish roots before the ground freezes, while dividing them in the spring gives them a chance to settle in before the growing season begins. It is important to divide bulbs before they start actively growing, as this can cause unnecessary stress to the plants.

Tools and Materials Needed for Bulb Division

To successfully divide bulbs, you will need a few basic tools and materials. These include:

– Gardening gloves: to protect your hands while handling the bulbs.

– A garden fork or shovel: to carefully lift the bulbs out of the ground.

– Pruning shears or a sharp knife: to cut the bulbs into smaller sections.

– A clean, dry surface: to place the divided bulbs for inspection and drying.

– Potting soil or compost: to replant the divided bulbs.

Step-by-Step Guide to Bulb Division

1. Dig up the bulbs: Use a garden fork or shovel to carefully lift the bulbs out of the ground. Be sure to dig wide and deep enough to avoid damaging the bulbs.

2. Inspect the bulbs: Check the bulbs for any signs of disease or damage. Discard any bulbs that are soft, mushy, or discolored.

3. Divide the bulbs: Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut the bulbs into smaller sections. Each section should have at least one shoot or bud.

4. Dry the divided bulbs: Place the divided bulbs on a clean, dry surface and allow them to dry for a few hours. This helps prevent rotting and allows any cut surfaces to callus over.

5. Replant the bulbs: Prepare a planting area with well-draining soil. Dig holes or trenches that are deep enough to accommodate the bulbs. Place the bulbs in the holes or trenches, making sure they are at the appropriate depth for the specific plant.

6. Water and care for the bulbs: After replanting, water the bulbs thoroughly to settle the soil around them. Provide regular watering and care as needed, following the specific requirements of the plant.

Benefits of Bulb Division

There are several benefits to dividing bulbs:

– Increased plant stock: By dividing bulbs, gardeners can create multiple new plants from a single bulb, allowing them to expand their garden or share plants with others.

– Rejuvenation of older bulbs: Over time, bulbs can become overcrowded and produce fewer flowers. Dividing the bulbs helps rejuvenate them, promoting healthier growth and more abundant blooms.

– Disease control: Dividing bulbs allows for the removal of any diseased or damaged sections, helping to prevent the spread of diseases to healthy plants.

– Improved plant performance: Dividing bulbs can help improve the overall performance of the plants by providing them with more space to grow and access to nutrients.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When dividing bulbs, it is important to avoid the following common mistakes:

– Dividing bulbs too early: Dividing bulbs before they are dormant or before they have finished flowering can stress the plants and reduce their ability to establish and grow.

– Cutting bulbs into too small sections: Dividing bulbs into very small sections may not provide enough energy reserves for the new plants to grow and thrive.

– Replanting bulbs too deeply: Bulbs should be planted at the appropriate depth for the specific plant. Planting them too deeply can inhibit their growth and flowering.

– Overwatering or underwatering: Proper watering is essential for the success of divided bulbs. Overwatering can lead to rotting, while underwatering can cause the bulbs to dry out and fail to establish.


Bulb division is a valuable technique for propagating and rejuvenating plants. By following the proper steps and avoiding common mistakes, gardeners can successfully divide bulbs and enjoy the benefits of increased plant stock, improved performance, and healthier growth. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, bulb division is a skill worth mastering for the success of your garden.