Monday, September 20, 2010

Peonies-Transplanting and Dividing

Butter Bowl Before Division
One of the most enjoyable aspects of running a nursery is the interaction John and I have with the folks who come to Pittsgrove. Some are longtime gardeners like us who swap gardening successes and failures, tell of their favorite plants, and of plants they had to leave behind in a move, etc. Other visitors are those who are new to gardening or just to the world of iris or peonies and are seeking an education on where or how to grow them. All make for lively discussions and we love imparting any knowledge we have in order to make "playing in the dirt" fun for one and all.

Questions about peonies arise often. "When can I plant them?" Potted peonies can be planted starting in spring as early as the ground can be worked and continue until late fall. Some people have the misconception that peonies can only be planted in the fall, but potted plants may be put in the ground throughout the growing season.

"When can I transplant or divide peonies?" Now the answer to that question is only in the fall and doing so is easy enough for the average gardener.

Cutting Back Foliage
Before digging, cut the stalks back to approximately 3-4" above the ground. Using a sharp shovel or spade, dig around the peony 6-8"from the stalks depending on how large the plant is and trying to break as few roots as possible.
Butter Bowl After Being Dug
If just moving to another garden area, make sure the new area is well-drained with no less than a half day sun. The spot should be well prepared and the peony should be planted with a rich mix of new soil as the plant should be able to flourish for twenty years or more. A critical point to remember is to plant the peony at the same level it was at originally as planting too deep will cause the plant not to bloom. The only exception to this is if the plant had been planted too deep in the first location and was not blooming, then just raise the plant slightly to promote future blooms. If you put a lot of loose soil in the bottom of the hole, plant the peony a little higher to allow for settling. Plant Soaking To Remove Excess Soil
If your peony has become quite large and you want to divide it, then after digging it up remove as much soil as possible from the roots using a hose or soaking in a tub or child's wading pool. Next study the plant looking down between the stalks for the pink or white eyes (similar to potato eyes) about the size of the tip of your pinky. For a good division, you want 5-7 eyes.

Looking Down At Peony Eyes

Further study the root structure to make a division using a bow saw or heavy duty clippers to divide the plant doing the least damage and retaining heavy roots which are the food storage for the coming year. Show caution in handling not to damage the eyes as they will provide the new leaves and flowers. Cutting Between Stalks
Prepare the new location as for transplanting, planting higher to compensate for settling and cover with 3-4 inches of mulch to prevent winter heaving the first year. Remove the mulch in the spring. In both cases, water in well after planting is done.

Five Divisions Each With Several Eyes

Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.

Happy Gardening!

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