How to Transplant Peonies in May


Peonies are long-lived perennials that generally do not appreciate transplanting. In a perfect world, a peony could be in its original location for generations, but often such stability isn't possible. Gardeners move and want to take their favorite plants with them, or a homeowner plans to build an addition and a prized peony is in the way. It would be wonderful if these changes happen in September, which is the optimum time for moving peonies. If you need a new septic system in May and have no choice but to move your budded Sarah Bernhardt peony, it can be transplanted successfully.

Step 1

Water the peony the day before transplanting it and the next morning. Allow the water to run for 5 to 10 minutes in a wide area at the base of the plant outward to the drip line (the area where the leaf spread ends). Make sure the water reaches the entire root ball of the plant.

Step 2

Choose a site in the full sun and where the soil is well-drained. Turn over the soil in the area by digging as deep as possible. Add at least five to six shovels of organic material such as compost or half of a bag of commercial planting mix for an area approximately 3 foot square. Mix the organic material with the existing soil. Prepare the new site beforehand if the peony is being moved to another property.

Step 3

Place a shovel at the drip line area and dig down as far as possible around the plant. Keep as much soil as possible around the root ball to minimize trauma to the roots.

Step 4

Lift the plant gently and set on the ground in the shade. Eenlist help if needed, as peonies can be heavy, especially if some of the surrounding soil is left intact.

Step 5

Wrap the plant in the burlap if it can't be replanted right away, using the twine to tie around the burlap to keep it in place. Moisten the burlap with water.

Step 6

Lay the plant on its side if it is being transported by vehicle to another location. Take care when shifting the plant into and out of the vehicle. Don't leave the plant in a hot car for more than a few minutes.

Step 7

Place the plant on a tarp and pull it gently to its new location. Alternatively, carry the peony carefully and set it into the hole. Lift the peony to adjust the size and depth of the hole, if necessary. Add one-fourth of a bag of planting mix and a 1/2 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer.

Step 8

Backfill around the root ball with soil and tamp down gently, making sure the soil is at the level it was in the old location. The "eyes" or red buds on the tubers should be 1 to 2 inches below the surface.

Step 9

Water thoroughly, letting the hose run for five to 10 minutes until the soil is moist but not saturated. Allow the water to drain. Water once a week in this manner if there is not adequate rainfall.

Tips and Warnings

  • Transplanted peonies may take several years to flower. If a peony is budded, it will likely lose the buds after transplanting. Do not plant too deep as this will cause rot or the plant may never bloom well.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel or large spade
  • Compost
  • Planting mix
  • Burlap
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer


  • North Carolina State University: Peonies for the Home Landscape
  • Denver Rose Society: Myths About Transplanting Roses
  • Garden Web: Peony Emergency Transplant in a Few Days
  • Garden Web: Transplanting Peonies

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University Extension: Transplanting Peonies
Keywords: transplanting peonies, Spring peony transplanting, Peony bud loss

About this Author

Janet Belding has been writing for 22 years. She has had nonfiction pieces published in "The Boston Globe," "The Cape Cod Times," and other local publications. She is a writer for the guidebook "Cape Cod Pride Pages." Her fiction has been published in "Glimmer Train Stories." She has a degree in English from the University of Vermont.