Transplanting Peonies

October 22, 2008

This week Nancy Green has written to Diana in need of help with her peony bushes...

This week Nancy Green has written to Diana in need of help with her peony bushes:
Dear Diana,
I want to dig up some peony bushes, to thin them out - in the next week or so and my aunt wants them.
What is the best way to package them to send them to her? I live in central New Jersey and she lives near Washington DC.
Also is fall is the time to transplant peonies?
Thank you very much!

Dear Nancy, how lovely to have peonies to spare!
Fall to early winter is a very good time to move or transplant them (although, with care you can move them almost any time except high summer).
The important thing is that the root ball should not dry out, so before you want to move them, water them well (unless it has rained recently).
You will need something to wrap around the root ball to hold it together – sacking is wonderful, old cotton tee shirts would be pretty good, and if neither are available bubble wrap with a few holes cut into it will do the job pretty well.
Have enough of your packing material sorted for each plant clump you want to lift and send to your aunt.
Trim the leaves/stalks down to about 6-8” (they will be mostly brown by now anyway).
Work round the plants with a fork to lift each clump with a good bit of soil covering the roots, then put them each in their packaging and tie string round the neck of each plant (don’t include the leaf stalks). Obviously you don’t want to pay for sending lots of soil across country, but try to leave some close to the roots, as they don’t like being naked!
When you and your aunt replant the peonies – remember two things:
firstly they are long lived and need good enriched soil in which to flourish, so dig in your choice of general purpose fertilizer before planting, and
secondly, like Irises, they like to feel the sun on their roots, so plant them with the roots no deeper than an inch below the soil.
Both your replanted peonies, and your aunt’s newly planted ones may sulk for a year and flower little or not at all – but you may be lucky and they will certainly be back in fine form the following summer.
PS Should you, or any other peony lover, want to split big old clumps – all the above remarks apply, but when you have dug them up you can usually cut the big knobbly roots into two or three pieces (always making sure that each piece has some roots growing from it) with a sharp serrated edged knife before re-planting them in suitably enriched soil.
As always,
Happy horticulture!

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