Peonies are perennial flowers that live many years. Large, fragrant flowers that bloom with a in a variety of colors characterize these plants. Common peony colors include white, cream, pink, rose, red, yellow and coral. Over time, these plants will grow large and begin to crowd the adjoining shrubs or perennials. When overcrowding occurs in your garden, you can split the peonies and plant part of the plant at a new location.
When to Split Peony Plant
Peony plants can become crowded in their original locations after 10 to 15 years of growth. Generally, these plants do not like to be split or replanted; however, if you need to reduce overcrowding, split the plants between August and October. Peony plants need time to establish their root system before the winter cold so that they can bloom the following spring. If you do not allow enough time between splitting and the winter months, the plants may take two seasons to begin to bloom again because these flowers take a long time to establish themselves in the garden.
How to Split a Peony
You can successfully split and transplant a peony using proper planning. Before you begin, pull the topsoil from around the plant and inspect the shrub for pink nubs, called “eyes.” The eyes are the new shoots that will grow and produce flowers the next season. Plan your split so that each portion of the new plants has three to five eyes. To create the split, dig around the plant to loosen the roots. You can dig the hole up to 12 inches away from the plant to ensure that you do not damage the roots. Use a sterilized shovel or knife to cut the plant into sections such as halves or quarter, depending on its size.
Plant Spacing and Depth of Split Shrubs
Choose a new location for your peony that is approximately two to three feet from adjacent shrubs. Dig a new hole that is up to 12 to 18 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter. The depth of your hole will depend on the size of the roots. For soils that do not have sufficient nutrients and organic matter, you can add up to four inches of organics and one half cup of a balanced fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. The soil amendments should fill approximately half of the planting hole. Place the new peony plant into the hole so that they eyes are no more than two inches below the land surface then backfill the hole with soil. Water the peony after planting and keep it watered as the roots reestablish themselves in the new location.
Planting Tip for Successful Splits
Peony plants do not usually like transplanting, but there are a few things to do as you split your shrubs to ensure success. Before you replant the split, remove any dead branches and apply a fungicide to roots. The fungicide will help protect the plant from fungus and root rot. Choose a location for your new plant that has good drainage, full sun exposure and a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Watch your peonies closely as spring arrives for new flowers. If your plant does not begin to flower, the eyes may be too deep. You can remove some of the topsoil to assist blooming. You can also plant your split shrubs in containers. Just like garden shrubs, keep the containers is a cold area during the winter months to encourage spring flowers.
Image courtesy of USDA.gov