I need to transplant my peonies as they are in the way of a new gate. I know September is suggested. I don’t know what the “eyes” are that people refer to. Can you help?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

You are correct, Peonies can be dug up, divided and transplanted when the weather is cool and moist–it is generally recommended to do this in the fall – mid September. At this point in time the plant is starting to go dormant established peonies resent disturbance, so it is best to move them when they are not growing.

In September, prior to lifting plants, cut off the foliage close to the ground. Using a spade dig deeply all around the plants and under, then lift with as much of the root system as possible being careful not to damage the crown. If you wish to divide the peony remove as much soil as possible by soaking the root ball with a hose. Using your hands, manipulate the roots into dividable portions, each with three to five eyes, then use a sharp knife to cut the tuberous root clump into divisions so that each clump has 3-5 eyes. The eyes are the small reddish buds that resemble potato eyes. These eyes will eventually elongate and become the plant’s stems. You will find  planting and care instructions for herbaceous peonies on the Canadian Peony Society website along with a diagram illustrating the location of the eyes.

The “eyes” should be planted about one to two inches deep. (If planted too deeply, the plant will produce foliage and no flowers.) This link on Garden Making Magazine gives step by step instructions on how to transplant the different types of peonies- herbaceous, tree & Itoh hybrids.

Peonies appreciate well-drained soil with an abundance of organic matter. Plants will flower better in full sun, but will tolerate some shade.

Good Luck with your transplant!