How to Dig Up and Divide a Peony

Written by deborah waltenburg Google
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How to Dig Up and Divide a Peony
Peony varieties, classified according to flower form, thrive in locations with full sun and well-draining soil. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Peonies are long-lived perennials that bloom in every colour except blue and add brilliant life to the landscape for decades. Classified by flower forms -- single, semi-double, double, Japanese and anemone -- peonies produce show-stopping flowers in the spring, and continue to provide visual interest with dark green, glossy foliage until autumn arrives. While most peony cultivars require very little maintenance, older specimens may start to decline when root systems become crowded. The process of digging and dividing peonies gives the plant a new lease on life by giving divided clumps room to grow and flourish for many more years.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Pruning snips
  • Garden spade
  • Organic material
  • Mulch

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  1. 1

    Choose new planting sites for divided peonies before beginning to dig up the existing plant. The division should take place in September, after peony plants have entered dormancy for the season.

  2. 2

    Amend soil in new planting locations with organic materials, including organic compost, coarse sand, grass clippings and shredded bark to create a well-draining, nutrient-rich base for the transplants.

  3. 3

    Cut foliage from the existing peony plant, leaving at least 1 inch of stem above the soil line.

  4. 4

    Dig around and under the existing plant, starting several inches out from the stems to preserve as much of the root system as possible.

  5. 5

    Lift the plant up and shake it gently to break away any loose soil clumps.

  6. 6

    Cut the root clump into four to six sections, depending on the size of the clump, with a garden spade. Each division should contain at least three to five buds, or eyes, and a healthy portion of roots.

  7. 7

    Move divided clumps to their new location immediately. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the new clump with enough room so that the eyes are 1 to 2 inches below the soil line.

  8. 8

    Place the clump in the new hole, with eyes situated upright and cover with soil, packing it around the clump to remove air pockets. After backfill is completed, water each newly planted clump thoroughly to settle the soil.

  9. 9

    Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch over the newly planted divisions in late fall to protect the peonies from constant freezing and thawing. Remove mulch in the spring before sprouts appear above the soil.

Tips and warnings

  • If peony divisions will be planted together in a group, allow at least 3 to 4 feet between plants.
  • Use only clean garden tools when working with plants to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Transplanted divisions may take up to two years to produce blooms again.

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