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Dividing Peonies

~ September 7, 2011

Peonies are a classic summer-flowering perennial found in many gardens across Canada. Very old peonies need to be divided when they stop blooming at the centre of the plant. This is the time of year to divide them. You will need a good garden fork, a sharp knife and some muscle power.

The first step is to dig out your existing plant. Dig a circle around the crown of the plant with the garden fork and pull the plant up with the tines. Peonies have thick strong roots so you do not have to worry about seriously damaging them. Once you have exposed the crown wash the soil away with a gentle stream of water. This will allow you to fully see the crown and the “eyes” or buds which are next year’s shoots.

The number of divisions you can make depends on the size of the peony. Generally each division should contain at least three eyes for good flowering.

To make the divisions take a sharp knife and cut through the crown and root system. Leave as many good roots intact as possible while making sure each division has at least three eyes.

Now that you have the divisions, dig a hole that is double the size of the crown and root system. Plant each division so that the buds are no more than 1-2 inches below the soil surface. Amend the hole with plenty of well rotted compost and Green Earth Bonemeal. As peonies are long-lived and very heavy feeders this will help them get off to a good start.

Mulch with two to three inches of straw or bark mulch and water thoroughly. Peonies do not like to dry out so keep the soil moist. This will help the new plant put down a good root system before the first frost of the season.

Generally it takes two years for the plant to fully recover from this process so you will have to be patient. Do not expect a show of blooms the first year after division.

Give it a try! If you have a large Peony and want some more colour around the garden or house, do not hesitate and start dividing these great plants.