Gardentalk – Peony division and planting

By September 14, 2017Gardentalk, Juneau
Get the hatchet for dividing peonies. (Photo courtesy of Ed Buyarski)

Get the hatchet for dividing peonies. (Photo courtesy of Ed Buyarski)

Peony is a large and tall perennial with fragrant and beautiful blooms. They can live as long as 50 years and are well suited for growing in Alaska’s climate.

In Alaska, peonies usually bloom in early summer, much later than elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. Because of that delay, Master Gardener Ed Buyarski said Alaska’s commercial gardeners have been able to capitalize on demand in the peony market.

White and pink peonies, for example, are very popular for use during weddings, while Buyarski said red peonies are preferred in East Asia.

In this week’s edition of Gardentalk, Buyarski has some tips for dividing and replanting peonies.

“This is the perfect time for planting them, just like with bulbs,” Buyarski said. “We get them planted now and into October before the ground freezes and they start to establish roots.”

For those gardeners who already have peonies growing into large clumps in their yard, Buyarski recommends digging them up, hosing them down to wash off the soil, and using a hatchet to cut and separate each clump’s roots. Divide up the plant so that each tuber or gnarly root section has at least two to five buds.

“Just my normal knives wouldn’t cut them,” Buyarski said.

Buyarski recommends digging holes that are 8 to 10 inches deep, and sprinkling in some fertilizer at the bottom. Plant each newly divided peony so the buds — which will remain dormant over the winter — are right at the soil surface. After filling in most of the hole with soil, you can top with sand or pea gravel to help with drainage.

Listen to the September 14 segment about peonies:

Gardentalk is a weekly feature that airs every Thursday morning on KTOO’s Morning Edition program during the spring and summer. You can sign up for the podcast or ask your own question for gardening help by going to the Gardentalk archive page.

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