Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Moving Peonies in Spring

Spring is NOT the time to move herbaceous peonies, fall is. However, sometimes, as with a childhood friend of mine, things like digging around the foundation of your house for repairs aren't scheduled around the best time to move plants. She emailed and asked for help--the advice I gave is posted below.

The good news is that peonies are generally very hardy plants. The bad news is that they should really only be moved in the fall and moving them now is really going to stress them. Your goal will be to minimize the shock (no, there isn't any valium for plants, unfortunately).

Take a good look at how high the soil comes on the plants now--you'll see that it just covers the roots. When you transplant them, you're going to want to put them exactly as deep. If you plant them too deep they won't bloom, and in a couple years you'll be lifting them and planting them at the proper depth.

Take all of the flower buds off now. You don't want the plant to waste its energy on producing flowers that likely won't have time to open anyway. Flower production takes a lot of energy and you want the plants to devote all their energy to strong roots. I know it's hard to snip off blooms, but you have to think long-term survival, not short term.

When you are ready to move the plants make sure that you have their new home ready (hole all dug, earth loosened up. FULL sun location). Dig up the plants and as much of the root as possible, being careful not to dislodge the root ball (i.e. you don't want the earth to all fall off the roots, if possible. The soil should be moist but not muddy).

If the plants are really big and you want to divide them, now is the time. Take a big sharp knife (I've even used a saw) and slice up the root ball vertically. Make sure there's still a substantial chunk of root with each section you plant (i.e. don't try and get 15 plants out of one--dividing in 2 or 4 is likely the most you'll get from each plant).

Pop the plants right intheir new home--keeping in mind the planting depth, as mentioned above. Water them really well (there's a term in gardening called "mudding in"--it means doing a first watering until the earth is literally mud). Step around the edge of the plant to dislodge any air bubbles and ensure that the roots all have contact with the earth. Mulch over the surface is beneficial.

Water when the top inch of soil is dry. Water thoroughly but not too often (one thorough watering a week is better than 5 dribbles throughout the week). Monitor closely during heat spells as they will likely need more water, especially during the first month or so.

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