How to Dig Peonies


Peonies are early summer flowering shrubs enjoyed by many home and professional gardeners. Once peonies are established, you must periodically dig up the plants to divide them. This process keeps the peonies healthy and provides additional flowers for planting. Dig up peonies in the autumn when the soil is moist but not saturated. Carefully divide the peony plant using sharp tools to cut apart the root systems, then return the original plant and the new divisions to the soil.

Moderately Easy


Things You’ll Need
  • Shovel
  • Tarp
  • Hose
  • Pruning shears
  • Long screwdriver
  • Two sharp knives (9 inches long and 2 inches wide)
  • Utility knife (3 inches long)
  • Shredded mulch (bark or leaves)
    1. Cut the peony stems down to approximately 1 inch above soil level and discard the stems. Spread the tarp nearby to place the peony plant on after removing it from the soil.
    2. Position the tip of a shovel about 6 inches away from the peony. Push the shovel straight down into the soil. Pull the shovel from the ground and reposition it to cut down into the soil again at the same distance from the plant. Continue pushing the shovel into the soil until you have made a complete circle around the peony to dislodge it.
    3. Repeat Step 2 with the shovel, this time cutting deeper and angling the shovel in toward the center of the plant. Continue pushing the shovel into the soil until you have dug to a depth of at least 14 inches.
    4. Insert the shovel into the cut circle and pry the peony plant from the soil. You will hear roots separating from the soil as you do this. Lift the peony plant from the soil and place it onto the prepared tarp. Turn the peony plant upside down, so the roots are facing upward.
    5. Remove as much soil from the roots as you can. Use a screwdriver to loosen the soil, if necessary. Use extreme care not to damage the roots as you do this, as the roots are fragile.
    6. Use the hose to remove the remainder of the soil from the roots. Direct the water to the roots and spray until the roots are clean and no soil remains. Place the peony plant in a cool, shady place to dry for approximately 24 hours.
    7. Examine the peony roots carefully after they have dried. Count the number of eyes that exist on the root system. Find the eyes by locating the stems and following them down to the roots. Cut the entire center crown in half and then further dividing the halves in half until you have separate pieces that have roots and one eye. Use the long knives and the short knife to divide the peony plant carefully.
    8. Wash the newly-divided peony plant pieces again with the hose. Replant the new divisions with the eyes 2 inches under the soil. Lay down at least 2 inches of mulch over the newly-planted peonies.

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