How to Split Peonies


Peonies are a species of perennial plant that produces large fragrant blooms of vibrant colors in early spring. Grown in the colder regions of Asian countries for 2,500 years, peonies made their way to Europe and the United States in the early 19th century. Some peonies can live as long as 50 years, but when plants become overcrowded, they will not thrive. If you split or propagate them, you will be rewarded with flowers that continue to thrive and bloom .

Step 1

Cut the stems of the peonies to ground level with a pair of garden shears. You can move peonies in early spring or fall, but September is usually the best month to begin the process of replanting.

Step 2

Dig out the roots with a shovel or pitch fork. Proceed carefully to avoid destroying the roots of the peonies. Shake the roots of any excess dirt. Use a garden hose to wash away any leftover dirt. By removing the dirt, you will be able see where to divide the peony bulbs.

Step 3

Divide the bulbous roots with a sharp, sterilized knife. Each new root to be planted should have three to five buds and three or four thick roots to become a successful transplant. Cut off any soft or rotten parts before replanting.

Step 4

Dig holes for the transplants. Select a sunny location with well-drained soil. The holes should be 10 to 12 inches deep and at least 3 to 4 feet apart to allow the peonies to spread.

Step 5

Place the roots in the holes and fill with garden or top soil. Cover the crowns, or upper-most buds on the transplant, with no more than two inches of dirt, or the new plants might not bloom.

Tips and Warnings

  • Transplanted peonies do not usually bloom the first year. Flowers typically begin to appear in the second year. Cold weather seldom injures peonies, but a late frost can damage emerging spring blooms. Cover the plants with a cotton sheet or cloth to prevent frost damage. Remove the covering the next morning as soon as the sun appears.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shears
  • Shovel
  • Pitch or spading fork
  • Garden hose
  • Sharp knife
  • Garden or top soil


  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service
  • North Dakota State University Extension Service

Who Can Help

  • Peonies for the home landscape
Keywords: peonies, split peonies, perennial

About this Author

Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for various websites, as well as online specialty courses for She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years experience in business development, sales and marketing. An avid gardener, cook and voracious reader, Biehler resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.