Transplanting peonies isn’t a difficult task, once you know how to do it. Although peonies don’t require transplanting to ensure their bloom like some perennials, there are several reasons you may want to move your plant. Perhaps it’s become shaded by maturing trees or has grown too large for a space. If peonies were initially planted too close together, poor air circulation can cause disease, necessitating replanting at the proper spacing. Perhaps you’d like to divide your peony to make more plants.
While peonies can technically be moved at any time, transplanting in fall is the best choice so as to minimize stress incurred by hot temperatures. Wait until foliage has begun to die back, and then trim stems almost to the ground. It’s a good idea to select a location and dig the transplant hole before lifting the plant, so plants won’t dry out while you’re prepping the site. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the estimated root size of your plant and amend soil with organic matter to improve fertility and drainage.
Next, dig around the perimeter of the plant, leaving ample room in order to preserve as much of the root system as possible. Place plant in new hole so that the eyes (small red buds) are an inch or two below soil’s surface. Peonies planted too deeply will produce foliage but no flowers. Refill the hole and water well.
While the root ball is out of the ground, it’s possible to divide it to produce more plants. Shake off any loose soil and, using a large, clean, sharp knife, cut into sections so that each has about three to four eyes and a good system of roots. Plant immediately, spacing at least two to three feet apart to ensure good air circulation.
Apply a thick layer of mulch, three to six inches, to protect new plants from cold temperatures and frost heave. Remove mulch in spring. For the first year or two, peonies may produce few to no flowers but should recover by the third year.