Peonies forum: How Big of a Hole Do You Actually Dig?

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Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 22, 2017 9:15 AM CST
Just wondering what everyone actually does in their planting of the peonies. Do you really dig a hole 2ft deep and 2-3ft wide as advised by most vendors for planting your peonies? What happens if you have hard subsoil that you cannot dig down that deep? Does anyone plant their peonies in a slightly raised bed due to hard subsoil? How do the peonies fare after they reach maturity? Do they suffer from decline after awhile? Is there any possibility that the roots are able to penetrate the subsoil and grow well?
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Oct 22, 2017 11:44 AM CST
I do slightly raised beds because of terrible soil in some places in my yard and the peonies do manage to expand out into that hard mess. The craziest I've seen is directly behind the house, a peony root actually extended around 3-4' to grow under a stone path, ended up pulling one of the large stones out of place to follow the root to the end....only to chop it off. There was no way that I was digging a hole large enough to replant it.
LizB
Name: Alex
Toronto, Ontario
Region: Canadian
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AlexUnder
Oct 22, 2017 2:15 PM CST
This is reminding me of the picture I posted on thread "The biggest hole you ever dug for a herbaceous peony" Smiling a couple of years ago. I just relocated and divided quite a few peonies this fall and feel that hole should be as big as possible - 2.5 - 3ft wide and at least 1.5 ft deep. I guess that you do not need to change or improve so much soil if it is already good to begin with or you do not feel up to the task, but strive for perfection ! It was not easy in the front yard where soil was pretty much not existent and basically from excavation of the house foundation - rocks and clay, but I made an effort .
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Oct 22, 2017 4:15 PM CST
The last couple of years I've dug deeper than before to add Azomite and BulbTone below the roots and then cover it with at least 3-4" of soil before putting in the roots. I try to do at least 6" out on each side as well but the beds I'm planting in now are going to be pretty tight. I don't worry about that one as much since it was tilled and planter's mix was added, pretty easy digging for me at planting time (initial prep last year wasn't fun....) so I have to believe it'll be easy growing for the new roots.
LizB
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 22, 2017 5:40 PM CST
I tried to dig as deep as I could but some parts of my yard have subsoil that are too hard to penetrate. The deepest I could get too was about a foot. I planted the peonies anyway. This was a couple of years ago. Now, I am finding some are showing decline and some are not affected. I guess my question is do you have any method or technique that you can share for cutting through the hard soil that does not require renting a tractor. Digging with a shovel has been rather hard on me.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Oct 22, 2017 5:55 PM CST
Go the easy route and build up a raised bed of about 2'x2'x8" over the dug hole. 2'x2' is about the right size for one peony.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 22, 2017 6:21 PM CST
Jerry, I have considered that but those are out of my reach at this time. I have to hire help to get the materials to my home and haul the dirt in to build the beds. The cost is just too high.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Oct 22, 2017 7:43 PM CST
I know what you mean by hard soil. The subsoil in my area is hard as concrete during the late summer and early fall which is normally a very hot and dry time.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 22, 2017 8:01 PM CST
Our soil is pretty friable (sp) so digging is not a big deal. The back yard has rock down at the 1' depth. The front yard is pretty churned up, only fighting frozen ground a bit. I was also putting espoma (sp) and some peat in the bottom of the hole, and a bit of manure, the mixing it well and topping with a few inches of soil. The root then was planted. Ran out of 'additives' for the last five though. I am hoping they make it through winter despite being planted so late. Don't expect flowers.

Karen, how far apart do you plant them. I am a bit worried as I forever plant too close. Tried to keep them at least 3' apart, but that is center to center. And I never know how big they will be. Some amaze me and other are quite short. Garden Treasure is almost a sublata - huge blooms but short plant that wants to drape a bit. I use peony hoops to keep them upright. Border Charm is another that really wants to drape. I planted them close to the edge of the raised beds so they can sort of drape over the rock sides. One year the blooms were resting on the lawn. lol
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 22, 2017 9:05 PM CST
Jerry, I seem to recall that you posted in another thread about roots pushing up and rising above soil . I am seeing this happening to some of my peonies that were planted in poorly prepared holes. I am piling soil on top of them to cover the roots as a temporary solution. Guess I will have to dig them up and move or prepare deeper planting holes for them.

Mary like you, I tried to plant them 3ft apart. In some cases, I put them closer because I ran out of space. As a result, I have to move 3 peonies this month because they are starting to crowd out their spaces and their neighbors. I am planning to dig up Buckeye Belle, Myrtle Gentry, and mislabel itoh from MB this week and plant them somewhere else. These did not bloom well for me last year. Is Garden Treasure very wide? Can I ask how short is your GT?
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Oct 23, 2017 6:55 AM CST
I am lucky as I have creek bottom soil that is very loamy (unlike most of TN which is clay). I dig a very big hole.

Karen, why don’t you buy a large pot and put one of those Peonies that weren’t true to name in it and see how it does to give you another option? I have a friend here and she has two tree peonies in large pots that bloom. I have two mislabeled Peonies from Wilds that were in prime Garden locations that I dug up and put in 3 gallon black Nursery pots and they are fine.

LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 23, 2017 7:52 AM CST
Thanks LG. I may try that in places of my yard where I can't dig down deep enough. Do you mean 3gal or 30gal pots? Is 3gal big enough for the peony roots to grow?
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Peonies Lilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing
Bulbs Region: Canadian Garden Ideas: Master Level Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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CarolineScott
Oct 23, 2017 9:12 AM CST
The holes here are not anywhere near that size----partly because I am digging in among tree roots.
I may try containers next year, but I think that the larger the container the better ?
I think that a 3 gallon is too small as the Takara that I just planted was in a 3 and 1/2 gallon, and the roots filled the container. That was the feeder roots. The storage roots were not all that big.
I think that a large diameter container would be more suitable than a pail type container as peonies tend to spread their roots rather than forming a tap root structure.
[Last edited by CarolineScott - Oct 23, 2017 9:35 AM (+)]
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Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Oct 23, 2017 11:01 AM CST
My Peonies were herbaceous, not very pretty, sinthe three gallon pots seemed to be adequate for them. I may use those Peonies as rootstock when I try my hand at grafting.
LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 23, 2017 1:30 PM CST
Karen, I show GT to be 30" tall but I think that was when I let it pretty much sprawl. I have peony hoops around all my peonies now (well, my established ones) so it stands a bit taller. I haven't recorded spread but if memory serves I would say at least 36" from side to side if left to sprawl. The blooms I measured at 8" one year. It is almost the last peony to bloom for me where it was. Was in shade til mid to late afternoon. Now it will get sun pretty much 24-7. All three roots show pips so I am super happy I didn't destroy it. It was planted originally 9-22-11 and came from Reath's Nursery in UP Michigan.

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