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How to Split a Fern Peony

By Jennifer Loucks ; Updated September 21, 2017
Fern peony

The fern peony is an herbaceous perennial shrub-shaped plant that grows from a thick, tuberous root system. The plant produces dark red blooms with delicate fern-like leaves. Fern peony plants are propagated by dividing or splitting the root ball in the fall once the growing season is complete. The soil should be moist, but not wet, prior to digging the root ball. Wait for the soil to dry if heavy rains have recently occurred or are predicted.

Cut back the peony plant stems to 1 to 2 inches in height. Dig around the plant 6 to 8 inches from the stems and to a depth of 14 inches with a sharp spade. Remove the root ball by gently prying it from the ground.

Turn the plant over so the root ball is facing upward. Gently use a stick to knock the dirt loose between the roots and remove as much dirt as possible. Take caution while removing dirt, as the roots will be fragile and can break easily.

Place the plant in a cool, shaded location for 24 hours to allow the roots to become less fragile and more rubbery. This will prevent breakage while splitting the root ball.

Determine the number of divisions that can be made by estimating the number of eyes present on the roots and number of small crowns growing off the main crown. Each split section should have a portion of the crown and four to five eyes.

Gently wiggle loose root sections or small crown growths to remove them from the root ball.

Pry the root sections apart to verify the direction of root growth. This will prevent accidentally cutting through the wrong section. Sink two long knives into the center of the root mass and gently pull on both knives to pry the root ball in half.

Continue to pry the root ball sections apart until there are four to eight section splits. Make sure there is a section of the root crown and four to five eyes on the root structure for each section.

Dip the root divisions in a fungicide dip solution designed for rooting. Plant the divisions as soon as possible to prevent the roots from drying out.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Sharp spade
  • Stick
  • 2 long knives
  • Fungicide dip

Tip

  • Disinfect all cutting tools in a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part bleach prior to making cuts to the roots.

About the Author

 

Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.