How to transplant peonies?

Transplanting Peonies


Peonies do well in sunny locations.

By Richard Jauron
Extension Horticulturalist
Iowa State University

Peonies can be left undisturbed in the garden for many years. Occasionally, however, it becomes necessary to move established plants. Peonies shaded by large trees or shrubs should be moved to a sunny site to improve flowering. The redesign of a perennial bed or border may require moving the peonies. Large, vigorous plants can be dug and divided for propagation purposes.

September is the best time to transplant established peonies. Begin by cutting the peony stems near ground level. Then carefully dig around and under each plant. Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. Promptly replant the peonies 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 large knife, divide the clump into sections. Each division should have at least three to five buds (eyes) and a good root system. Smaller divisions will require several years to develop into attractive plants.

Peonies perform best in full sun and well-drained soils. When selecting a planting site, choose a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day. Avoid shady areas near large trees and shrubs. Poorly drained soils often can be improved by working in large amounts of compost, peat moss or leaf mold.

When planting a peony, dig a hole large enough to comfortably accommodate the plant’s root system. Position the peony plant in the hole so the buds are one to two inches below the soil surface. (Peonies often fail to bloom satisfactorily if the buds are more than two inches deep.) Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant as you backfill. Then water thoroughly. Space peonies three to four feet apart.

In late fall (mid-November to early December), apply a four to six inch layer of mulch over the newly planted peonies. Excellent mulching materials include weed-free straw and pine needles. Mulching prevents repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months that could heave the plants out of the ground. Remove the mulch in early spring before growth begins.
Transplanted peonies may not bloom well the first spring. However, flower numbers should increase rapidly by the third or fourth year.

More articles about peonies:

  • Growing Garden Peonies
  • How to Divide Peonies
  • Dividing Lilies, Daylilies, and Peonies
  • Caring for Peonies

Contacts :
Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, [email protected]

Transplanting Peonies

Need to transplant peony clumps? Learn the ins and outs of digging and dividing this easy-growing perennial. Transplanting peonies isn’t difficult. The most important aspect of the process is understanding why you want to transplant peonies. These old-fashioned favorites don’t like to be moved, so it’s a task that needs a definite reason—and a good one, at that.
Some reasons you might want to tackle transplanting peonies include too little sunlight reaching plants. Many times peonies fail to flower strongly when they don’t receive enough direct sunlight. As nearby trees and shrubs mature, they may limit the amount of sunlight reaching peony plants. In this situation, transplanting peonies to a sunnier site can restore the flower show.
Another reason to be transplanting peonies is if you’re redesigning a planting border. If your garden is under renovation, lifting and moving peonies may be a necessary task. Or you may simply want to multiply your peonies and create divisions for adding to your own yard or sharing with family and friends. Sometimes peonies have been planted too closely together, and as clumps mature, they start crowding one another and need lifted and replanted.
For the most part, transplanting peonies is a job that doesn’t usually need done for 10 to 15 years. The best time of year for transplanting peonies is September. Clip leafy stems back to near ground level—2 to 3 inches tall. Use a sharp spade to dig beneath the peony clump. Start digging about a foot away from the stems. As you dig around and beneath plants, try to cut as few roots as possible.
After loosening soil, lift the peony clump from the hole. Place it on a tarp. Gently shake the peony plant so soil falls away from roots. Divide the peony roots into sections or divisions. Each division needs to have three to five eyes or growing points. Eyes are the places on the roots that produce stems and leaves.
As you remove soil from peony roots, use a sharp knife to cut out any soft or bad spots on the roots. Allow root pieces to air dry and form a callus or hard layer before planting. The callus helps prevent root rot after planting. Dusting peony roots with fungicide also helps reduce the incident of rot.
Choose a planting site with full sun (six to eight hours per day), except in Southern and Southwestern regions, where afternoon shade is ideal. Dig planting holes large enough so peony divisions and roots easily fit. Plant the eyes 2 inches below the soil surface in cold regions, 1 inch in warm zones. In cold zones, add a loose winter mulch around each transplanted peony. A layer that’s 4 to 6 inches deep should prevent frost heave. Remove the mulch in early spring, before new growth appears.
After transplanting peonies, don’t expect plants to flower the following spring. You may see a few blooms the second year after planting, but it’s in the third and fourth years that flower numbers should make a comeback.

Q. We have a mature peony that is about 8 years old and very healthy. However, we don’t like its location. When is the best time to move it, and how do you recommend doing so?

— Cliff Plummer, Hanover Park

A. AThe best time to move your peony is from late August to mid-September. This will give the plant time to settle in before winter. It is possible to move it in other seasons, if necessary. I have had success moving peonies in spring and summer and even late September because of pending construction.

The key is to dig a large root ball and replant immediately, especially when transplanting at less desirable times of year. However, we did experience nearly a 50 percent loss when we moved peonies at our home — by necessity — on a hot June day. The plants also had to sit out-of-ground for a full day, and their root balls were disturbed by repeated moving.

To transplant, use a sharp, flat spade to make a cut around the peony in preparation for lifting the root ball. Angle the cut under the roots of the peony starting a few inches away from the foliage at the base of the plant. Two to four inches away from the foliage should suffice: A healthy, vigorous clump may benefit from a slightly larger root ball, and a less-developed plant could do with a smaller root ball.

After cutting around the plant, use the spade to gently pry the root ball up. If the soil crumbles away from the edges, you may have made the root ball too big. A healthy plant with a good root system should pop right out of the ground. If you have sandy soil in your garden, the root ball may not hold up well. Water the new transplant well, and mulch.

Tim Johnson is director of horticulture for the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Send questions to: Gardening Q&A, Sunday, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4041; e-mail to [email protected]

Some people have trouble getting peonies to bloom. Read on to learn why! Source: Renee Firmingham. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

The garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora) is among the most popular and reliable temperate climate perennials. Most gardeners are more than satisfied with the results they get: their plants bloom in late spring or early summer and produce a profusion of large flowers, often double, frequently delightfully scented. Just the plant they need to decorate their gardens or fill buckets full of cut flowers. And peonies are very long-lived: plants, many still thriving after more than 40 years in the garden, still blooming massively each year, yet require little more care than a bit of hand weeding.

Yet not all gardeners are so successful. Their peonies bloom very little if at all. Let’s take a look at the reasons why:

Problem 1: The Plant Is Too Young

This peony was divided leaving only one eye … and not much of a root, either. It will probably take several years before it blooms. Source: www.southernpeony.com

Peonies are very slow-growing. A newly planted peony plant bought in a typical nursery may well take a year before it first flowers and 3 to 5 years before it’s really starting to bloom heavily. Less mature starter plants, like those inexpensive Chinese imports—or divisions you made yourself with only one or two “eyes” (buds)—can take even longer before they first bloom: 2 to 3 years! And it’s no wonder so few gardeners grow peonies from seed. You probably won’t see the first bloom for at least 3 to 5 years and it will then take them 7 to 8 years before they’re really blooming abundantly.

Solution

Be patient! Your plant will bloom … eventually!

Problem 2: Excessively Deep Planting

Peony eyes need to be covered in no more than 2 inches (5 cm) of soil. Source: statebystategardening.com

When you plant a peony, you have to ensure the eyes are buried, but not too deeply (about ¾ to 2 inches/2 to 5 cm). Never any deeper. Otherwise, the foliage will come out in perfect condition, but there will be no flowers … or very few.

Solution

Dig up and replant the peony at the right depth, preferably in early fall (the best time to replant a peony). Or wait. Because a peony planted too deeply will eventually correct itself and grow closer to the surface … but you may have to wait 10 years or more before it blooms.

Problem 3: Mature Peony Transplanted Without Division

It’s best to divide mature peonies rather than replanting them intact. Source: www.southernpeony.com

Peonies simply don’t like transplantation and mature plants, with dozens of long, thick, carrotlike roots carrots, are even less enthusiastic about the idea than younger ones. You’ll often discover that a mature peony (one planted 7 years ago or more) refuses to flower after it’s transplanted, or at least, only does so after several years. Gardeners often find that when they transplant several mature peonies, at least one will begin to flower as if nothing had happened, but the majority are still stubbornly refusing to flower 4 or 5 years later.

Solution

Divisions of peonies take moving much better than mature plants transplanted with all their roots and buds intact. Dividing a peony rejuvenates it, in the sense of “making it young again.” Properly done, divisions give renewed, vigorous plants that will likely bloom the following spring. Aim for divisions with three to five eyes. If you divide the plant into smaller divisions than that, with only one or two eyes, you’ll end up with a plant that is too young (see Problem 1) and is not yet ready to bloom. So, instead aim for the middle ground: a peony that is neither a stodgy old-timer nor a wet-behind-the-ears baby: essentially, you want a full-of-pep teenage peony!

To find out when and how to divide a garden peony, read Fall is For Dividing Peonies.

Problem 3: Too Much Shade

In shady spots, stick with the shade-tolerant woodland peony (Paeonia obovata). Source: www.pinterest.ca

Garden peonies are sun-loving plants and do best in full sun in all but hottest climates, where partial shade is better. In most gardens, they’ll still bloom in partial shade, but with fewer flowers and may well have weaker flower stalks. In true shade, though, the common garden peony is a total washout.

Solution

Move your peony or reduce the shade, perhaps by eliminating overhanging tree branches. Or plant shade-adapted peonies, such as the woodland peony (Paeonia obovata).

Problem 5: Foliage Removed Too Soon

Leaf peony leaves intact all summer. If you want to cut them back, wait until fall. Source: http://www.southernpeony.com

After flowering, a peony rebuilds its energy supply and starts to prepare for next year’s flowering thanks to the photosynthesis its leaves carry out. They essentially “recharge its batteries.” Without them, the plant will peter away and die. And the peony is no spring ephemeral: it needs a good three months of foliage to store up the energy needed for next year’s bloom. So, its leaves must be left intact until the end of the season, at least until the beginning of September (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is). If you mow down them on purpose or by accident in July or mid-August, the plant’s ability to rebloom will be severely impaired!

Solution

Do not cut back peonies after they bloom. Leave the foliage intact until at least early fall. With many cultivars, the leaves will start to redden in September, a sign that their work is done for that year.

Problem 6: Too Much Fertilizer

Try to keep nitrogen-rich fertilizers away from peonies or else dilute them to safer levels. Source: courses.cit.cornell.edu

It almost never happens that a peony is in soil so poor in minerals that it fails to bloom, but it will fail to bloom if it gets too much fertilizer, especially if the fertilizer is rich in nitrogen (the first of the three figures seen on the fertilizer label). The culprit is usually lawn fertilizer applied too generously right next to the peony.

Solution

Peonies are slow-growing plants, not fertilizer-guzzling weeds. With most fertilizers, apply at no more than half the recommended rate. That’s usually quite sufficient, especially if the first digit is greater than 10, as 20-5-10.

Problem 7: Late Frost

A severe late frost can kill peony buds. Source: www.southernpeony.com

The garden peony is actually quite cold hardy and often pulls through late frosts unscathed, but a really deep, penetrating frost at the wrong time, just as the flower buds are starting to form, can kill them, leading to a year without flowers.

Solution

If you know that a severe frost is expected just as peony flower buds are starting to become visible (their most vulnerable stage), you can cover the plants with an old blanket or some other cloth, using stakes to support its weight as if it were a tent. Usually, however, it’s easier to stoically accept that sometimes Mother Nature plays dirty tricks on gardeners and wait until flowering resumes the following year. It just isn’t something that happens that often.

Problem 8: Unacceptable Growing Conditions

Every plant has its specific needs and peonies like rich, deep, fairly loose soil that is always at least a bit moist and has a pH of about 6 to 7. In addition, it’s a temperate climate plant that prefers a slightly cold to very cold winter, growing best in hardiness zones 2 to 7. In extreme conditions, such as a tropical or subtropical climate, severe aridity, rocky soil, very alkaline or very acid soil, or an abundance of invasive tree roots, etc., it will not be a very happy camper and likely will not bloom.

Solution

If you don’t have the conditions needed to successfully grow peonies, grow something else!

Problem 9: Diseases

Flower bud killed by gray mold. Source:

Peonies are prone to various diseases, including gray mold or botrytis blight (Botrytis paeoniae), the one most likely to specifically harm blooms. It can kill or damage flower buds, leaving small buds black and dead and larger ones browning and unable to open. It also kills stems and leaves or provokes brown, water-soaked splotches on foliage. Diseases in general and gray mold in particular are especially frequent in cool, wet weather.

Solution

Cut off dead flower buds as soon as you see them. The plant still needs at least some of its leaves, though, so even if they are diseased, it may be better to leave the foliage in place for the summer so that what leaf surface is left can carry out photosynthesis, but do cut and destroy them at the end of the season. Applying fresh mulch annually can be helpful: it helps prevent disease spores that overwintered in the soil from migrating back up from the soil to the leaves. Ensure good aeration and good drainage at all times, even if that means you have to transplant your peony elsewhere. If the situation is repeated each spring, either apply a fungicide every two weeks … or give up on peonies.

Peonies as far as the eye can see: something you just might be able to accomplish! Source: Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden,mbgna.umich.edu

There you go! A quick tour of nine reasons peonies fail to bloom. But don’t let the text above scare you off peonies! Yes, there can be problems, but most gardeners have no difficulties at all with their peonies and they come back to bloom massively year after year. You’ll probably find peonies among the easiest perennials you can grow!

How Can I Successfully Transplant Peony Plants?

First, it’s crucial that this job be completed in fall as the plants begin to go dormant, not in spring as they prepare to bloom. In September, choose a spot in full sun (at least 6 hours per day), and prepare the soil with well-rotted manure and/or compost, working it in and loosening the soil down to 18 inches.

Dig the plants carefully to minimize root injury, and remove the foliage. If the plants are large, they’ll probably do better if they’re divided. Gently wash the soil off the large roots, then use a sharp, clean knife to divide the plant’s crown. Make sure each division has 3-5 pink buds or healthy stems.

Plant divisions at least 3 feet apart (peonies need good air circulation), and set each division in a hole so the soil level is no more than 2 inches above the buds on the root. If the peonies are planted too deeply, they may not bloom.

As it is, peonies resent disturbance and may not bloom for several years after transplanting — especially if the plants are old. Water them well, checking for settling to make sure they are not too deep. If rain doesn’t fall, water them every week or so until the ground freezes. Use a couple of inches of mulch in winter to prevent freezing and thawing from heaving the new plants out of the ground.

If you must move them in spring or summer, dig the plants carefully, disturbing the large root ball as little as possible (dig a deep, wide hole to ensure this). Then plant the peonies as soon as you can, taking care to plant them no deeper than they were growing before.

First, it’s crucial that this job be completed in autumn as the plants begin to go dormant, not in spring as they prepare to bloom. Choose a spot in full sun (at least 6 hours per day), and prepare the soil with well-rotted manure and/or compost, working it in and loosening the soil down to 18 inches.

Dig the plants carefully to minimise root injury, and remove the foliage. If the plants are large, they’ll probably do better if they’re divided. Gently wash the soil off the large roots, then use a sharp, clean knife to divide the plant’s crown. Make sure each division has 3-5 pink buds or healthy stems.

Plant divisions at least 3 feet apart (peonies need good air circulation), and set each division in a hole so the soil level is no more than 2 inches above the buds on the root. If the peonies are planted too deeply, they may not bloom.

As it is, peonies resent disturbance and may not bloom for several years after transplanting — especially if the plants are old. Water them well, checking for settling to make sure they are not too deep. If rain doesn’t fall, water them every week or so until the ground freezes. Use a couple of inches of mulch in winter to prevent freezing and thawing from heaving the new plants out of the ground.

If you must move them in spring or summer, dig the plants carefully, disturbing the large root ball as little as possible (dig a deep, wide hole to ensure this). Then plant the peonies as soon as you can, taking care to plant them no deeper than they were growing before.

This article originally appeared on www.bhg.com.

Dividing Peony Plants – Tips On How To Propagate Peonies

If you have been moving things around in your garden and have some peonies, you might wonder if you find the little tubers left behind, can you plant them and expect them to grow. The answer is yes, but there is an appropriate way of propagating peony plants that you should follow if you expect to be successful.

How to Propagate Peonies

If you have been considering propagating peony plants, you should know there are some important steps to follow. The only way to multiply peony plants is to divide peonies. This might sound complicated, but it’s not.

First, you need to use a sharp spade and dig around the peony plant. Be very careful not to damage the roots. You want to be sure to dig up as much of the root as possible.

Once you have the roots out of the ground, rinse them vigorously with the hose so they are clean and you can actually see what you have. What you are looking for are the crown buds. These will actually be the part that comes through the ground after planting and forms a new peony plant when you divide peonies.

After rinsing, you should leave the roots in the shade so they soften up a bit. They will be easier to cut. When you are propagating peony plants, you should use a strong knife and cut the roots all the way back to only about six inches from the crown. Again, this is because the crown grows into the peony and dividing peony plants requires a crown on each piece you plant.

You will want to make sure each piece has at least one crown bud. Three visible crown buds is best. However, at least one will do. You will continue to divide peonies until you have as many peonies as you can get from the roots you originally dug up.

Plant the pieces in a location suitable for growing peonies. Make sure the buds on the pieces are not more than 2 inches under the soil or they may have trouble growing. If the temperatures are fairly even, you can actually store your pieces in peat moss until you are ready to plant them on a warmer day. Don’t store them too long or they may dry out and won’t grow.

So now you know that propagating peony plants isn’t too terribly difficult, and so long as you have one good peony plant to dig up, you can be dividing peony plants and create many in no time.

MASTER GARDENERS: Time to divide and plant peonies

Peonies are an old-fashioned flower that thrives in our Minnesota gardens. Many peonies have been around for decades and, under the right conditions, continue to thrive and bloom every spring.

There are three types of peonies. Most common is the herbaceous peony, which comes up each spring and dies down to the ground in the fall. Tree peonies grow from woody stems each year and should not be cut back in the fall. The third peony type is the intersectional peony. I had not heard of this one before. It is a crossbred combination of the above peonies that goes dormant to the ground in fall, but has the leaves and blooms of the tree peony. All of the peonies are hardy to Zone 3.

Peonies like plenty of sun and well-drained soil. Mine are in partial shade and continue to bloom, although not as prolifically as they would in full sun. Give them plenty of space so they have adequate air circulation around them. Choose their spot carefully since they can last for decades without splitting or moving them.

Peonies are best planted in the fall following the general rule that spring bloomers be planted in autumn and summer bloomers planted in spring. If purchasing new plants, they will most likely be sold as bare roots. Prepare a large hole with plenty of organic matter. The roots usually have a thick middle piece surrounded by smaller roots with the eyes on the top. Plant the eyes 2 inches below the surface making sure they are pointing upward. Water in deeply. Mulching is also advised to help them through the first winter.

In spring continue to make sure they are well watered, especially for the first year. If flower buds form, only allow a couple to bloom. The plant’s energy needs to go into root production the first year. You can fertilize after bloom but they are not normally heavy feeders. When the herbaceous peonies die back in the fall, clean up the foliage to reduce the spread of disease.

Dividing peonies is a cost effective way to increase the number of plants. Sometimes you may want to undertake splitting a plant for sentimental reasons. It is for that reason that I have peonies in my garden from the farm where I grew up. The procedure for dividing peonies is simple, best done when the plant is dormant. Insert your shovel into the soil just beyond the outermost leaves of the clump. Slip your shovel under the clump, too, and as gently as possible try to lift the plant without breaking the tuberous roots. When you have freed the plant, lift it onto a tarp and clip the stems to just a couple of inches. Gently shake the soil from the roots and shower with water. Once the roots are exposed you can start the process of dividing the plant. Using a sharp knife, cut the roots into sections having at least three or four healthy growing buds or eyes. Replant to the proper depth.

That’s it, plenty of sun, a little fertilizer, good air circulation. If you take care when planting peonies you’ll be able to enjoy their blooms for many Junes to come.

Check the University of Minnesota Extension updated website for help on other questions. Simply type your subject in the search box when you open the Extension page, www.extension.umn.edu. For broader information go to “Learn About” and click on “Yard and Garden.” Dial (218) 444-7916 to reach the local Master Gardener voicemail to get help with your gardening problems.

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