I enjoyed your article on peonies in June issue. I know the rule of thumb is not to tranplant but I would like to divide them and transplant. What time of the year should I do this?
The Gardener’s Answer
Peonies are such a great addition to any sun-loving garden. You are correct that in an ideal situation they would remain left undisturbed in the garden but if they need to be moved the best time to do so is now. This will give the plant enough time to get settled before the winter arrives. Keep in mind that they may not produce blooms next spring as they use all their energy on establishing a root system and foliar growth. This will make for a healthier plant in the long run.
The first step will be to cut back the peony to ground level. You will want to use a sharp spade to gently dig up the peony making sure not to damage the roots. Start further out and work your way in not to disturb too much. Lift the plant out of the ground and gently shake off excess soil. This will make it easier for you to get in there and figure out how many division you want to make. Each clump should have three to five buds. Use a sharp knife to divide and plant them in their new home immediately. It is not a bad idea to have the holes dug and ready for planting before you dig up the existing plant.
After you have made your divisions you can evaluate the size of each hole and adjust if needed. the roots should have plenty of space to grow. Plant the clumps an inch or two (no more) below the soil level and add soil on top. Water immediately and into the fall. A thick later of mulch before winter arrives will help insulate the new plantings. Next spring it should be removed so the new growth can push through. Happy transplanting!