How to Store Peony Rhizomes
A rhizome is the tuberous section of a herbaceous peony bush that produces roots underground and stems above ground. Although it appears hardy, the rhizome dries out quickly and is susceptible to diseases when exposed to air. Whenever possible, replant the rhizome within a day after removing it from the soil. Peony rhizomes can be replanted until the ground is frozen. If this is not possible, you can safely store your peony rhizome until it can be permanently planted.
Things You’ll Need
- Moisture-retaining agent (peat moss, sand, vermiculite or sawdust)
- Sharp knife
- Quart- or gallon-sized plastic bag (depending on rhizome size)
- Cool, dark area
Storing Bare-Root Rhizomes from a Nursery/Garden Center
- If you still have the original packing material from the nursery, rinse and dry it thoroughly. This ensures that the rhizome is not exposed to bacteria that may have developed when th packaging material was exposed to air.
- Estimate how much peat moss, sand, vermiculite or sawdust you need to cover the rhizome. Two or three cups of material will cover a small rhizome; larger rhizomes may need five or six cups.
- Dampen peat moss or other moisture-retaining agent with water. It should be slightly wet, not saturated or soggy.
- Place the damp mixture in nursery packaging. Tuck the rhizome inside the peat moss or other agent, ensuring the root is completely covered.
- Seal package and store in a cool, dark place.
Storing Recently-Dug Peony Rhizomes
- Remove dirt from the rhizome by shaking or gently breaking away the dirt. Do not wash the rhizome.
- Carefully study the rhizome for damaged or rotting areas. Cut out these areas with a sharp knife sterilized with alcohol.
- Using scissors, punch four small holes on each side of the quart- or gallon-sized plastic bag. Evenly space the holes throughout the bag’s surface. Holes allow air to circulate in and around the bag and prevent too much moisture from being trapped inside the bag and next to the rhizome.
- Dampen the moisture-retaining agent (peat moss, sand, vermiculite or sawdust) with water until it is slightly wet, not soggy.
- Place the peat moss or other moistened mixture in plastic bag. Tuck the rhizome inside the moistened mixture.
- Tie the bag with string.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
- Remove the rhizome from the bag and check for rot weekly. Cut off rotting areas to prevent disease from spreading to rest of rhizome. Put the rhizome in the plastic bag and return it to a cool, dark area for storage.
Tips & Warnings
According to horticulturist Ron Smith at the North Dakota State University Extension Service, it is best to wait until you have had several hard frosts before removing peony rhizome from the ground. This minimizes stress on rhizome by ensuring plant is dormant.
Plant rhizome outside in late August or early September, giving it a chance to grow roots before it goes dormant for the winter.