Peonies survive for 50 years or more, returning each year in larger clumps. These hardy perennials thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 to 8 and can often be found around old homesteads. Large showy blooms range in color from white, pink, red and all shades in between. Transplanting peonies to a new area, or lifting to divide the roots, is best done in late summer to early fall to allow roots to become established before winter arrives. Transplanting in the spring often results in few or no blooms the first season.
Prepare the planting site before digging up the peony. Select an area that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Avoid areas near trees or shrubs.
Till to a depth of 12 inches and remove rocks and other debris. Add 2 to 3 inches of compost or well-rotted manure, and mix in well with the existing soil.
Cut peony foliage to 3 to 4 inches from the ground. Use a spade or garden fork to dig under each plant. Use care not to damage the roots.
Lift the plant from the soil, and shake it to remove excess soil. Divide the roots at this time if you wish to create more than one peony plant. Cut the sections apart with a sharp knife, leaving two to three buds (eyes) and roots to each section.
Dig a hole in the prepared soil that is large enough for the root system and situate the peony plant so its roots spread naturally in the soil and the buds are an inch or two below the surface of the soil. Fill in around the roots with soil and firm down. Water thoroughly to saturate the roots.
Mulch with 2 to 4 inches of leaves or hay in late fall to protect from winter damage. Remove mulch in spring before new growth appears.