Dividing Your Herbaceous Peonies


As you enjoy the peony garden in bloom, be aware that fall is the perfect time to plant bare-root peonies and divide or transplant peonies.

“Fall is the perfect time because transplanting peonies in the summer causes a lot of stress due to the heat. When you transplant them, make sure you dig a deep enough hole that you get all of the roots covered. You want to make sure the shoots are about an inch beneath the soil.”

Peony Garden Fellow Sarah Gizzi

There are two methods to divide a peony: ‘pie-slice’ and ‘whole-plant’

Pie-slice Method

Allows you to divide your peony’s roots without uprooting the entire plant.

  • Using a spade, loosen a triangular section of your peony – just like a slice of pie. You want to have good roots going down, so dig down at least 8″, preferably deeper than that. 
  • Gently continue to loosen and lift the pie-division out of the ground.  
  • Shake roots then spray with hose to remove any excess soil.
  • Remove foliage.
  • Divide the root into 3-5 eyed sections
  • Remove stringy or broken roots leaving only large, healthy roots about 6-8 inches long.

Whole-plant Method

Removing the entire plant from the ground and dividing it from there

  • Using a spade, dig a circular trench several inches deep around your plant and about 6-12″ away from the stems.
  • Go around the plant again and now dig under the plant: have your spade at about a 45 angle.
  • Gently begin to lift the plant out of the soil.  If the peony is still stuck in the ground, go back and dig even further under the plant with spade angled in.  You want to dig up as much of the root as possible.
  • The plant will come out in one or more pieces (sometimes many). Once all the plant has been removed from the ground, spray the roots with a hose to remove excess dirt. 
  • Remove and dispose of any remaining root fragments from the hole as these will resprout in the coming years.
  • Divide the roots into 3-5 eyed sections.  If you have a large plant, you may end up with a lot of divisions. Gift your friends!
  • Remove stringy or broken roots leaving only large, healthy roots about 6-8 inches long.

For a step-by-step guide to dividing peonies, check out this video with Carol Adelman! Carol co-authored a book with our Curator David Michener called Peony (2017), which detailed the history, types, and growing instructions for hundreds of peony varieties.