The Q&A Archives: Peony Bushes

Question: We have several beautiful peony bushes in the back end of our property. We would like to move them to the front yard where they can be enjoyed by everyone. When and how should the be transplanted? Are they a root busy, tubular, or bulb bush?? Thanks for any help you can give me!

Answer: Peonies are very picky and will sometimes sulk if they are moved when they are actively growing so the very best time to dig and move a peony is in the fall, after frost has nipped the tops down and the roots are dormant. You can move yours now but it may not flower for a year or two. It won't die if you move it now, but it may look puny until the roots re-establish themselves so expect some wilting of the foliage.

Moving established plants is a simple procedure. Cut the peony stems near ground level in September (or after your first hard frost). Then carefully dig around and under each plant. Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. Promptly replant the peony in a sunny, well-drained site.

Division of large peony clumps requires a few additional steps. After digging up the plant, gently shake the clump to remove loose soil from the root system. Using a sharp knife, divide the clump into sections. Each section should have at least 3 to 5 buds (eyes) and a good portion of the root system.

Peonies perform best in full sun and well-drained soils. When planting peonies, dig a hole large enough for the entire root system. Place the peony plant in the hole so the buds are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. (Peonies often fail to bloom satisfactorily if the buds are more than 2 inches deep.) Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant as you backfill. Then water thoroughly.

In late fall (November), apply a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch over the newly planted peonies. Straw is an excellent mulch. Mulching will prevent repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months that could damage the plants. Remove the mulch in early spring before growth begins.

Transplanted peonies will not bloom well the first spring. In fact, it's best to remove any flower buds that form the first year to maximize plant growth. Transplanted peonies should bloom well by the third or fourth year.

Hope this answers your question.

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