When To Transplant Peony – The Best Practices For Healthy Plants

A gardener transplanting a peony plant in a sunny backyard garden.Are you struggling with the best time to transplant your peonies for optimum growth? Transplanting peonies in September, when they’ve stored enough food, yields the best results. This article will walk you through a simple guide on how to successfully move your beloved peonies without causing unnecessary stress to these stunning plants.

Dive in and discover how this might just be the missing link between you and a thriving garden full of radiant blooms.

Key Takeaways

  • The best time to transplant peonies is in September when they have stored enough food and are entering winter dormancy.
  • Herbaceous peonies are easier to divide and transplant compared to tree peonies, which should be left undisturbed as much as possible.
  • When dividing peonies, ensure each section has at least three buds for optimal growth potential.
  • Choose a suitable site with well – drained soil and full sun or light shade for transplanting peonies. Provide enough space between plants for proper airflow and prevent overcrowding.

Understanding Peony Transplantation

Gardener <a target=transplanting peonies in a flower bed surrounded by tools.” title=”Gardener transplanting peonies in a flower bed surrounded by tools.” />Before diving into the best practices for transplanting peonies, it’s important to understand the differences between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies, as well as knowing the optimal time and method for dividing and transplanting these beautiful plants.

Herbaceous Peony vs. Tree Peony

Herbaceous peonies and tree peonies are two different types of peonies that have distinctive characteristics and require different care and transplanting techniques.

AttributesHerbaceous PeonyTree Peony
TransplantingEasier to divide and transplant. Best time to do so is in early fall.Does not take well to being transplanted. Should be left undisturbed as much as possible.
StructureFeatures smaller, fewer flowers and short, sturdy stems that require less support.Has a woody structure that supports its growth. Produces larger flowers and requires more support.
Blooming SeasonBlooms in spring and summer.Blooms in early spring, before herbaceous peonies.
CareRequires proper soil, watering, fertilizing, and pruning. Top bud on a tuberous root should not be planted more than 2cm deep.Requires similar care as herbaceous peonies but needs even more attention due to its woody structure.

When to Transplant Peonies

The ideal window for moving your peonies is in the fall, specifically September. This timing allows the plants to store enough food before going dormant for winter. However, circumstances may allow for transplanting peonies in October or even early spring which can help with preventing transplant shock.

Early summer transplants are discouraged due to high temperatures that may cause undue stress on the plants.

Transplantation of peony should be meticulously planned and implemented, keeping in mind factors like soil readiness and weather condition. It’s important to remember that transplantation done during a cooler part of the day helps lessen heat stress on these perennial beauties.

Whether you’re transplanting them into pots or directly into garden beds, ensure they have ample space; about 2-3 feet apart is ideal for healthy growth.

How to Divide Peonies

Dividing peonies is crucial to their propagation and health. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Wait for the right time, typically in September or fall, after the plants have died down and stored enough food.
  2. Locate a mature peony bush at least 3 – 5 years old that is healthy and robust.
  3. Begin by cutting back the foliage of the plant to just a few inches above the ground.
  4. Carefully dig around the plant, ensuring not to cut into the root ball.
  5. Once you’ve unearthed it, gently lift out the plant from its hole.
  6. Wash off excess soil from roots using a gentle stream of water.
  7. Examine the root carefully and identify where natural divisions are present.
  8. Using a garden knife or spade, divide the clump into sections with at least three buds each for optimal growth potential.
  9. Be delicate with roots as they can be sensitive to damage or cutting during this process.
  10. Keep newly divided peonies moist until they’re ready for planting in their new location.

Where to Transplant Peonies

When transplanting peonies, it is important to select a suitable site that meets their growing requirements. Peonies thrive in full sun or light shade and prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.

Choose an area with good air circulation to prevent fungal diseases. Avoid planting peonies near large trees or shrubs, as they can compete for nutrients and water. It’s also important to provide enough space for each plant, allowing at least 3-4 feet between them to ensure proper airflow and prevent overcrowding.

By choosing the right location for transplanting your peonies, you’ll give them the best chance for healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Best Practices for Transplanting Peonies

A gardener transplanting peonies in a vibrant garden surrounded by flowers.Prepare the soil, dig up the peony carefully, and plant it in a suitable site to ensure successful transplantation. Learn these essential steps for healthy peonies in our detailed guide.

Identify a Suitable Site

Choosing the right site for transplanting peonies is crucial for their healthy growth. Peonies prefer a well-drained soil and a location that provides protection from strong winds but also has good air circulation.

It’s important to find a spot in your garden that meets these criteria to ensure the long-term success of your peony plants. Additionally, planting them in an area with enough sunlight is essential for their blooming cycle.

By selecting a suitable site, you can provide the optimal conditions for your transplanted peonies to thrive and showcase their beautiful blooms year after year.

Prepare the Soil

To ensure successful transplantation of peonies, it is important to properly prepare the soil. Here are some tips on how to get the soil ready for transplanting:

  1. Clear the area: Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting site to create a clean and clear space for the peonies.
  2. Test the soil: Conduct a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content. Peonies prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. Adjust the pH if necessary by adding lime or sulfur based on the recommendations from your soil test.
  3. Improve drainage: Peonies require well-drained soil to prevent root rot and other problems. If your soil tends to retain water, consider amending it with organic matter such as compost or aged manure to improve drainage.
  4. Loosen the soil: Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen up the top 12-18 inches of soil in the transplanting area. This will help create a loose and friable bed that promotes healthy root growth.
  5. Add organic matter: Incorporate organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted manure into the loosened soil. This will enrich the soil with nutrients and improve its overall structure.
  6. Level and firm the soil: Smooth out any uneven spots in the planting area and gently press down on the surface to firm it up slightly. Avoid compacting the soil too much, as this can impede root growth.

Digging Up the Peony

To dig up a peony for transplanting, follow these steps:

  1. Start by cutting off the peony stems near ground level.
  2. Use a garden fork or spade to carefully dig around the peony plants, keeping a wide berth to avoid damaging the roots.
  3. Gently lift the plant out of the ground, taking care not to break any of the brittle roots.
  4. Shake off excess soil from the roots, being careful not to damage them in the process.
  5. If dividing the peony, separate the clump into smaller sections with at least three to five healthy buds on each division.
  6. Trim any damaged or dead roots with clean pruning shears.
  7. Place the divisions or entire plant in a container filled with damp soil or wrap them in damp newspaper if you can’t replant them immediately after digging.

Planting the Peony

Planting the peony is a crucial step in ensuring its successful transplantation. Follow these steps for proper planting:

  1. Choose a suitable site: Select a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and has well-draining soil.
  2. Prepare the soil: Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of 12-18 inches and amend it with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.
  3. Dig up the peony: Carefully dig around the peony, avoiding damage to the roots. Lift the plant from the ground, shaking off excess soil.
  4. Positioning the roots: When planting herbaceous peonies, make sure to position them with their eyes (buds) exactly 1 inch below the soil surface. Planting too deep may reduce flowering. For bare root peonies, they should be planted 1-2 inches below the soil surface.
  5. Backfill and firm soil: Fill in the hole with amended soil, gently firming it around the roots. Avoid compacting the soil too much, as this can prevent water drainage.
  6. Water thoroughly: After planting, give the peony a thorough watering to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets around the roots.
  7. Mulch: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

Caring for Newly Transplanted Peonies

After transplanting peonies, it is important to water them thoroughly and regularly, especially during the first few weeks.

Watering and Fertilizing

Watering and fertilizing are crucial for the health and growth of newly transplanted peonies. Here are some best practices to follow:

  • After planting, make sure to water the newly transplanted peony thoroughly. This will help settle the soil around the roots and provide a good start for the plant.
  • Once established, peonies should be watered regularly, especially during dry periods. They generally require about an inch of water per week.
  • Avoid overwatering as excessive moisture can lead to root rot or other fungal diseases. It’s important to maintain well-draining soil.
  • Fertilization is not always necessary for peonies, as many healthy plants do well without it. However, if you choose to fertilize, do so sparingly and with caution.
  • A top-dressing of compost or well-aged manure every year or two can provide sufficient nutrients for peonies instead of packaged fertilizer.
  • If you decide to use a fertilizer specifically formulated for flowering bulb plants, choose one that is low in nitrogen but higher in phosphorus and potassium.
  • Apply the fertilizer in early spring before new growth appears. Sprinkle it evenly around the base of the plant, avoiding direct contact with leaves or stems.


Mulching is an essential step in caring for newly transplanted peonies. By applying a layer of organic matter, such as compost or straw, around the base of the plant, you can help control weeds, conserve moisture, and keep the soil cool.

This protective mulch also acts as a barrier against extreme temperature fluctuations during winter and spring. It’s important to remember that the mulch should be removed in early spring before new growth appears to avoid smothering the emerging shoots.

Overall, using mulch is a simple but effective way to promote healthy peony plants and ensure their successful establishment in their new location.

Protecting from Pests and Diseases

To ensure the health of your newly transplanted peonies, it is important to protect them from pests and diseases. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Cleanliness is key – Keep the area around your peonies clean and free from debris. This will help prevent pests from nesting and diseases from spreading.
  2. Regularly inspect for pests – Check your peonies for signs of pests such as aphids, spider mites, or scale insects. If you spot any, remove them by hand or use an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.
  3. Provide proper air circulation – Good airflow is essential for preventing powdery mildew, a common fungal disease that can affect peonies. Make sure there is adequate space between plants to allow for proper ventilation.
  4. Use organic pest control methods – Consider using organic pest control methods such as introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs or lacewings to control aphids and other pests.
  5. Avoid overwatering – Peonies prefer well-drained soil, so avoid overwatering them as this can create conditions that encourage disease development. Water at the base of the plant rather than overhead to keep foliage dry.
  6. Proper pruning practices – Prune any infected or diseased parts of the plant immediately to prevent the spread of disease. Dispose of pruned material away from your peony plants.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes to avoid when transplanting peonies include improper timing, incorrect depth or spacing, neglecting soil preparation, and overwatering or underwatering. Find out how to avoid these mistakes for successful peony transplantation!

Improper Timing for Transplantation

Transplanting peonies at the wrong time can have detrimental effects on their health and ability to thrive. It is important to note that peonies are best transplanted in September or very early spring when they are dormant.

Transplanting them in the summer can lead to transplant shock, while transplanting in May or March is not advisable as it can disrupt their growth cycle. By choosing the right timing for transplantation, you can ensure that your peonies have the best chance of thriving in their new location.

Incorrect Depth or Spacing

Proper depth and spacing are crucial when transplanting peonies to ensure their healthy growth. Planting peonies too deep can result in poor blooming, while planting them too shallow can lead to the roots drying out.

It is recommended to plant herbaceous peonies with their eyes (buds) no more than 2 inches below the soil surface, while tree peonies should be planted with their graft union about 4 inches below the soil level.

In terms of spacing, allow at least 3 feet between each mature herbaceous peony plant and around 4-6 feet for tree peonies. This provides ample room for air circulation and prevents overcrowding as the plants grow over time.

Neglecting Soil Preparation

Neglecting soil preparation is a common mistake when transplanting peonies. Proper soil preparation is essential for the successful growth of these plants. Peonies thrive in well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter.

Poorly drained soils can lead to root rot and other diseases, so it’s crucial to improve them before planting. Adding compost, peat moss, or leaf mold to the soil can enhance its drainage and fertility.

This will create a healthy environment for your newly transplanted peonies and promote their overall growth and bloom production. Don’t underestimate the importance of proper soil preparation when moving your peonies – it can make all the difference in their success!

Overwatering or Underwatering

One of the most common mistakes when transplanting peonies is overwatering or underwatering. Peonies hate to be overwatered and despise having wet feet, so it’s important to take care not to overwater them.

Heavy and poorly drained soils are more susceptible to becoming waterlogged, leading to overwatering issues. On the other hand, dry soil is a major reason for transplant failures when it comes to peonies.

Finding the right balance between watering is key to maintaining healthy plants during and after transplantation. Remember that overwatered plants may take some time to recover from excess water, while underwatered plants can die if they don’t receive enough moisture and proper watering techniques aren’t followed.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

– Wilting or drooping leaves may indicate a lack of water or root damage during transplanting.

– Lack of blooms could be due to inadequate sunlight, improper planting depth, or the plant being too young.

– Yellowing or browning foliage may be caused by nutrient deficiencies, disease, or overwatering.

– Pest infestations such as aphids and leafhoppers can be treated with organic insecticides.

Wilting or Drooping Leaves

Wilting or drooping leaves are a common concern after transplanting peonies. This is known as transplant shock, and it’s important to keep the plant well-watered during this time to help it recover.

Proper hydration is crucial for supporting root growth and preventing further stress on the plant. Additionally, providing some shade can help protect the leaves from drying out in direct sunlight.

It’s normal for the peony to take some time to adjust to its new location, but with proper care, the leaves should regain their turgidity and perk up again.

Lack of Blooms

One common issue that peony growers may encounter is a lack of blooms. This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve put in time and effort to transplant your peonies. Lack of blooms can occur due to several reasons, including planting the peonies in too much shade or not giving them enough sunlight exposure.

Peonies require adequate sun exposure to bloom, so it’s essential to choose a suitable site for transplantation where they can receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

Stress is another factor that can prevent peonies from blooming, even if they are usually hardy plants. Factors such as improper soil preparation or overwatering can stress the plant and inhibit flower production.

Yellowing or Browning Foliage

Yellowing or browning foliage in peonies can be a common issue that gardeners face, and it is often associated with improper transplanting practices. When peony leaves turn yellow, overwatering is the most common cause.

Overwatering can lead to waterlogging of the soil and rotting of the peony root system, resulting in yellowing or browning leaves. It’s important to ensure proper drainage when planting and avoid overwatering to prevent this issue.

Regular monitoring of your peony plants for signs of yellow or brown foliage is recommended to catch any issues early on and maintain healthy plants.

Pest Infestation

Pest infestation can be a common issue for peonies, with insects like thrips being a particular nuisance. Thrips are tiny, slender bugs that feed on the foliage and flowers of peonies, causing damage and discoloration.

To get rid of thrips and other pests, it’s important to regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation. If you spot any insects or damaged leaves, you can try washing them off with a strong stream of water or using insecticidal soap specifically designed for garden use.

Regularly monitoring your peonies and taking prompt action will help keep these pesky pests at bay and ensure healthy growth for your plants.


In conclusion, knowing when to transplant peonies is crucial for their health and successful growth. September is the prime time to move these beautiful plants, allowing them to enter winter dormancy and maximize blooms.

By following best practices such as proper soil preparation and care after transplantation, you can ensure that your peonies thrive in their new location. Don’t forget to avoid common mistakes and troubleshoot any issues that may arise along the way.

With a little patience and attention, you’ll be rewarded with stunning peony blooms year after year.


1. When is the best time to transplant a peony?

The best time to transplant a peony is in the fall, after the plant has gone dormant and before the ground freezes.

2. How do I prepare an area for transplanting a peony?

To prepare an area for transplanting a peony, choose a location with well-draining soil and full sun. Dig a hole that is wide enough to comfortably accommodate the roots of the plant and amend the soil with compost or organic matter.

3. Can I divide my peonies when transplanting them?

Yes, you can divide your peonies when transplanting them. Dividing can help rejuvenate older plants and increase their blooming capacity. Make sure each division has several healthy buds and roots.

4. How should I care for transplanted peonies after planting?

After planting, water the transplanted peonies thoroughly to settle the soil around their roots. Mulch around the base of each plant to help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Provide regular watering during dry periods and fertilize annually in early spring with a balanced fertilizer formulated for flowering plants.