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Peonies are an old-fashioned floral favorite among gardeners worldwide, especially in Europe, Asia, and North America. Their beauty is only matched by their stubborn nature. Once they’ve taken root, they do not like to be moved. Therefore, if you choose to transplant them, you must do so very carefully at a specific time of year. This ultimately begs the question, ‘when is the best time to transplant peonies?’
The best time to transplant peonies is in the fall after the flowers have died back and before the ground freezes. September is an excellent month to do so, especially if your peony plants are well-established. If you choose to transplant peonies in the spring, you must do it just as new growth is occurring. April is usually a good time for this, depending on the climate and where you live.
Now that you know when to transplant peonies let’s explore this topic in more detail below. We’ll discuss why you should transplant these flowers and how to do so correctly. We’ll look at how deep the average peony plant roots grow and what the chances of re-blooming are after transplantation. We’ll also explain how to get transplanted peonies to grow again and how long the average flower lasts.
So, if you’re ready to learn more about how, when, and why to transplant peonies, then let’s get started!
Why Should You Transplant Peonies?
The main reason you may consider transplanting your peonies is if the flowers aren’t getting enough direct sunlight. As trees, shrubs, and other surrounding plants mature, they can affect the amount of sunlight reaching your peonies. This inevitably will limit both the growth and overall health of your peony plants.
Another reason could be that your garden is undergoing a renovation and you need to redesign the planters. If this is the case, then uprooting and moving your peonies is inevitable. Or, perhaps your peonies were initially planted too close together, and as they’ve matured, they’ve started to crowd-out one another. In this case, transplanting is also a necessity.
How to Transplant Your Peonies
As peonies are finicky and don’t like to be moved once established, you must use caution when transplanting them from one location to the next. Luckily, for the most part, this is a job that only needs to be done once every ten to fifteen years. The steps for transplantation include the following:
- In the fall (September, preferably), choose a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun per day.
- Prepare the ground in the chosen area (with manure or compost) by loosening the soil about eighteen inches down and working fertilizer throughout.
- Clip the leafy stems of the plant to almost ground level – approximately two or three inches high.
- Use a clean, sharp knife and dig underneath the peony clump, about a foot or so away from the stems.
- Dig up the plants carefully, paying close attention not to cut or damage the roots.
- Remove the foliage gently from the uprooted plants.
- Wash the soil off near the roots using a gentle flow from your garden hose.
- Take a clean, sharp knife and divide the plant’s crown, making sure each section has three to five buds or healthy stems attached.
- Plant each division at least three feet apart, as peonies require plenty of air circulation to grow and thrive.
- Place divisions in a pre-dug hole with the soil level no more than two inches above the buds near the roots, as peonies planted too deeply will not bloom.
- Water the transplants well and then continue to water once a week until the ground freezes.
- Add a few inches of mulch around the new transplants in late fall to prevent them from heaving when the ground freezes and thaws.
How Deep are Peony Roots?
The depth of peony roots is dependent not only on the size of the plant but where it’s located. Peonies growing in a planter rather than in the ground will have shorter roots based on the size of the pot. It’s imperative not to plant peonies in too-deep soil, as they won’t bloom or grow properly.
It’s recommended to plant peonies in a hole or planter with no more than one to two inches of soil below the surface. The soil should also be fertilized before planting with a mound of dirt and mulch added to the top to compensate for any settling that may occur.
Can You Transplant Peonies in the Spring?
You can opt to transplant peonies in the spring if you are renovating your garden or need to move them to a better location with more direct sunlight. Wait to do so, however, until the flowers start blooming. This is usually sometime in April, depending on the climate and where you live. It’s much better to transplant peonies in the fall rather than in the spring, so hold off until then, if possible.
Follow the instructions listed above under the subheading entitled: How to Transplant Your Peonies for best results. Because transplanting is often stressful for peonies, you should give the plant an inch of water one or two days before moving it, not immediately beforehand. The plant will fare well if it’s well-hydrated rather than drenched.
Will Peonies Bloom after Transplanting?
Most peonies do well after transplanting, provided you do it in the fall when the flowers have died down, and the ground has yet to freeze. The following spring, you may notice limited growth, but that’s to be expected. Transplanting is stressful for plants, especially peonies. During the second year, you should see a marked improvement in your peony plant’s development. By the third and fourth years, the plant should make a complete recovery, and flowers will likely be in full bloom once again.
How Do You Get Peonies to Bloom Again?
If, after transplanting, you notice your peonies aren’t blooming as they used to, try cutting back their stems slightly at an angle directly above any buds that are facing outward. Or, you can cut them all the way down to the ground if there is little to no new growth. The flowers should return, hopefully, the following spring or the year after. Just be sure to cover the crown with soil and mulch in the fall to protect the plant during the harsh winter months. For more information, check out our post on When to Cut Back Peonies.
Do Peonies Only Bloom Once?
Sadly, for as beautiful as peonies are, they have a relatively short lifespan each year – only a week to ten days. The good news, however, is that the flowers blossom at different times throughout the growing season so that you can enjoy their fragrant beauty from late spring (April) through early summer (June).
Transplanted peonies may blossom for only a few days and then fall off but, the good news is, if they’re handled with care during the transplanting process and properly re-root themselves, they can live for up to one hundred years or more!
To summarize, the best time to transplant your peonies is during autumn, after the plant has died back and before the ground freezes. September is often considered the best month for this, especially if your peony plants are full-grown or well-established.
If you decide to move your peonies in the spring, you should do so right around the time you notice new growth developing. April, in most North American regions, is an excellent month to do this. However, you should be aware that the flowers may not bloom as well that first summer following transplantation.
Good luck and happy gardening!