Question: When is the best time to separate my peony bush? I would like to dig up part of it and put it in a sunny part of the yard.
Answer: You can dig and divide peonies from the time the foliage begins to die back (mid- to late summer) until about the first frost. Peonies are long-lived plants that do not like to be disturbed, but sometimes the trees around a peony create more shade than the plant can tolerate. To dig it up, start by cutting off all the foliage to about three inches above the soil. With a spading fork, loosen the soil in a circle around the plant. Continue digging and gently lifting the soil in this circle until you can lift out the crown of the plant. Don’t worry about trying to dig down to get all the major roots. Once the crown is out of the ground, you can cut the plant into sections. Look at the top of the crown, right below where it was growing in the soil. It will have little buds. Every division you make should have a minimum of three buds to produce another peony. Use a sturdy knife or hatchet to cut through the woody crown and replant the divisions. The secret to a happy peony is well-prepared soil. Since peonies can live up to a hundred years without disturbance, take a little time now to give them good homes. Dig generous holes, add compost, and replant. To encourage fast bloom, be sure the top of each new plant is about two inches below the soil line. The divisions will probably not bloom the first year, but after that, you will have flowers for the rest of your life.