Peonies are one of the most amazing perennials to plant in the landscape. They are big, bold, perennial plants that emit an amazing smell from large beautiful blooms in a rainbow of colors that require little to no maintenance once established. With the cool fall weather, it’s the perfect time to move or divide peonies.
Digging up peonies for moving or dividing is rather simple but it can be a fairly heavy digging project, especially if the peony has grown happily in its current location for many years. I’ve seen thriving peonies that have grown in the same spot for more than 25 years! Especially with old peonies, don’t be surprised to find roots growing three to four feet into the earth, but don’t panic if you break some long roots off as you dig. It won’t hurt the main root at all.
To begin your moving project, cut the peonies back by cutting off the stems of the leaves to 4 to 5 inches. Use a garden spade to cut straight down into the ground circling the entire plant before lifting the root clump from the ground. At this point, some gardeners use a spray of water to hose off the clump to remove some of the soil in order to see the roots better. I usually just use my fingers to remove a good deal of the dirt but it’s up to each gardener which method to use.
Next, if you are simply moving the peony to a new location, you can reposition it to it’s new location and cover with soil. One important point with peonies is that you should not plant them too deep. The most common cause of failure of peonies to thrive is planting them too deep. You only need about an inch of soil over the crown to have beautiful peonies next year.
If you are dividing your root clump, use a sharp knife to separate the root clump into divisions. Make sure there are three or four “eyes” on each new division. The “eyes” are the small areas on the root clump near each stem where the new stems will emerge in the spring. Then plant the divisions in the ground and cover with about an inch of soil. Water well and let them rest. It may take a year or so for your perennial to bounce back but once it does, you will have a beautiful bold peony to brighten and beautify your landscape!
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