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Ask a Local Master Gardener: How to give a peony a new home

  • It’s the right time of year to transplant peonies. COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG VIA MCT

For the Gazette
Published: 9/27/2019 12:06:46 PM

Q: How do I transplant my peonies? I planted a couple last year but decided I don’t like where they are. —D.W., Hadley

A: Ahh, peonies. They are one of the queens of flowers and so gorgeous they make me smile just thinking about them. Their large, glossy foliage alone is enough to make them a worthwhile addition to a sunny garden. If you really must transplant your peonies, fall is the perfect time to do so. They do not particularly like to be moved, so make sure you really do not like where they are before disturbing them.

Peonies need at least five, preferably six or more hours of full sunshine per day. They will live for decades if happy, so transplant with foresight. If you live in a yard surrounded by woods and are thinking of planting them in a woodland edge, you may want to think twice as those trees will grow and may shade your plants over time.

To set them up for success, first plan, then prepare, and finally transplant.

First, plan your new peony location. An ideal location is an open area with full sun (more than six hours a day) and good average soil that drains well. They do not like “wet feet”.

Next, prepare your location by digging a hole for each peony. Amend the soil with 1 part compost to 2 parts original soil. You will use this amended soil when you fill the hole back up with the transplanted peony. The hole should be about 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep — plenty of room for a mature peony root ball and that freshly amended soil.

When digging up your peony, take your spade or shovel quite a bit away from the plant’s stem — 12 to 18 inches if you can. Dig in a circle around the plant, pushing the shovel in a little deeper as you go until you can gently lift out the root ball. Peony roots are actually tubers. They are big and fleshy and store water. Part of the reason you want to start far away from the stem is to avoid cutting the tubers as doing so stresses the plant.

Once you have the root ball in hand, you can wash it off gently with a hose to help you see the “eyes” of the tuber. The “eyes” are the very small pink, fleshy points growing out of the top of the root ball and are next year’s flowering stems. You can cut off this year’s green leafy growth to better see the eyes if needed. The leaves are pretty well done for the season now. Plant the roots (tubers) so those eyes are no more than 2 inches below the soil surface. Planting them too deeply means no flowers for you.

Lastly, fill the rest of the hole, tamp it down, and water it well. Mulch them the first winter. Come spring, pull back the mulch and watch them grow! They may take a year or two before flowering.

Thanks for this good question, D.W. and thanks for asking a local Master Gardener.

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be answered per week.

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