Transplanting peonies

(Question)

I have some neglected peonies that have serious weeds growing between the roots – ie I can’t weed them without damaging the roots. It is May 4th, I live just east of Markham Ontario. I would like to dig them up, clean them out and transplant them. They are in sandy/loamy soil, in full sunlight. Is it too late?

(Answer)

Peonies (Paeonia) prefer to be left undisturbed but if you are determined to remove those weeds and lifting up the whole plant is the only way, then it can be done.  However, be prepared because they may not bloom the first year or two after lifting.

The best time to dig up and/or divide peonies is mid September.  Not in the spring. You will have to live with those weeds for a bit longer.  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.  Wash the soil from the roots with a strong spray and then examine. You can probably pull out any visible weeds without doing too much damage to the plant. Replant fairly quickly.

The current location for your peonies sounds perfect, so you can return plants to the same spots.  Do not plant any deeper than the original planting depth. One by one tidy up the holes and put some compost at the bottom. Then place the plant back in the hole so the eyes are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.  (Peonies planted deeper than 2 inches often fail to bloom satisfactorily.)  Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil as you backfill, then water thoroughly.  You may need to sprinkle some soil between the stems.  Watering will remove air pockets. Good luck.