My daughter recently purchased a home which has a very large peony bush beside the front porch. It is not caged or supported so is overgrowing the front steps. How and when can I safely cut this back to recover the porch space and also can I divide the plant and bring some home to my garden?
Peonies are very long living plants and can live up to 50 years. It sounds like the one at the front of your daughter’s new home might have been growing there for a long time. The best time to lift and divide a peony is September. For safety on the steps you could tie back or cut off a little of the foliage now but it would be best if you could wait until September to move and divide the plant. It is best for the health of the plant to leave the foliage so that it can continue to perform photosynthesis and provide food for the plant. It is good to remove any stems from faded flowers now if there are some left from this year’s blooms.
Peonies prefer full sun and deep, rich, well drained soil. If you plan to dig up the plant in September and divide it then be sure to enrich the soil with compost when you replant. Perhaps you can relocate the divisions further from the steps and give them more room. Below is a link to a fact sheet developed by a member of Master Gardeners of Ontario that describes how to do the job:
Good luck with your divisions and hopefully you and your daughter will be enjoying the blooms for many years.