How Often Should Peonies Be Divided?

Peonies probably hold the record for the perennial with the longest life span. Stories are common of peonies still thriving that were originally planted on pioneer homesteads in the late 1800’s. To keep a peony healthy and thriving, is it necessary to dig and divide the massive clump of roots and stems, and if so, how often?

Luckily, peonies tell us when they need dividing. Here are the clues they give:

  • First of all, peonies can remain in the same place for years or decades, growing fine without division.
  • If a peony is thriving, blooming well, and appears healthy, there’s no need to disturb it, and it’s best to leave it alone.
  • Peonies require several years to re-establish after division, so it’s best not to divide them more often than necessary.
  • One clue that a peony might need dividing is a decline in flowering. If it no longer blooms as it once did, digging and dividing can help re-invigorate the plant. Be certain, though, that the cause of decline isn’t the surrounding trees that have grown, casting more shade than they did a decade ago. Peonies bloom best in full sun. If increased shade is the problem, move the peony to a new, sunny spot.
  • Another sign that a peony needs division is if the center of the clump becomes bare and open, and all the fresh shoots are at the outer perimeter. If so, dig the clump, reset fresh growth from the outer edge, and discard the central woody portion.
  • On the average, peonies probably are fine for one or two decades or more with no division needed. Let the health of the peony be the guide, and if all is well, no need to interfere.
  • If division is necessary, September is the ideal month. 

Here’s to a long life for our peonies. Happy Gardening!

2 Responses

  1. Butch Fangsrud

    Thank you for writing about peonies. My wife’s GGrandfather Knute came to Estelline, South Dakota, in 1884 when he was 8 years old. His father was one-legged, so Knute had to grow up fast. They planted peonies on the first 10 acres they broke. When they left farming and moved to Marvin, SD, in 1909, they brought peonies with them. These flowers got handed around pretty promiscuously. We acquired the makings of a plant about 20 years ago. It now grows under a mature apple tree, not the best place. I have it growing in a sunnier location also. I provided a set of roots to my wife’s sister, but her’s did not take. At the moment, I’m letting them chill before renewing summer growth. We want to make more of them. The 8 year old boy mentioned above lived till 1966. Great Grandfather Knute is remembered very clearly by my wife’s family. Her grandpa died on my birthday. There is that.

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