The Q&A Archives: PEONY

Question: My Mother passed away and she had the most beautiful peony and I would like to know when is the best time to move it and how is the best way to divide it and move it. My sister wants some of it also.

Answer: I'm sorry for your loss. I know how important this peony is so we'll guide you as best we can. Digging and dividing established peonies is actually a simple procedure. Cut the peony stems down to near ground level in September or October. Then carefully dig around and under the plant. Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. Promptly plant the peony in a sunny, well-drained site.

Division of large peony clumps requires a few additional steps. After digging up the peony, shake gently to remove loose soil from the root system. Divide the clump into sections, making sure each division has at least 3 to 5 eyes (buds) and a good portion of the root system. (This will make more sense after you've dug the plant and can actually see the roots. If you can't shake the soil loose you can hose the excess soil away.)

Peonies grow best in full sunlight and well-drained soils. Dig a hole large enough for the entire root system. Place the peony division in the hole so the eyes are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. (Peonies planted deeper than 2 inches often fail to bloom satisfactorily.) Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil as you backfill, then water thoroughly. Space plants about 3 to 4 feet apart. Apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch in late fall. Straw is an excellent mulch. Mulching will prevent repeated freezing and thawing of the soil that could damage the plants. Remove the mulch in early spring before growth begins.

Transplanted peonies will not bloom well the first spring but they should be back to full flower production by the third or fourth year.

Best wishes with your peony.

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