Transporting peonies

Asked September 13, 2020, 7:55 PM EDT

I am going to be transplanting my great grandfathers peonies from Baltimore to Minneapolis. They will be out of the ground for four or five days in transport. What do you suggest that I do to make sure they make it home safe and sound? Should I rinse off the dirt and pack the roots in damp peat moss? Or try to get a large dirt ball with each one? There are three. I see that advice to cut back the stems before digging them up.

Hennepin County Minnesota

3 Responses

Transplanting the peony by cutting the stems near ground level. Then dig around and under each plant. Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. After digging up the plant, gently shake the clump to remove loose soil from the root system. Divide the clump into sections with a large knife. Each division should have at least three to five buds (eyes) and a good root system. Smaller divisions will require several years to develop into attractive plants. Peonies perform best in well drained soil and a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day. Avoid shady areas near large trees and shrubs. Poorly drained soils can be improved by working in large amounts of compost, peat moss or leaf mold. When planting a peony, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system. Position the peony plant in the hole so the buds are one to two inches below the soil surface. Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant as you back fill. Then water thoroughly. Space peonies four feet apart.

Yes. Thank you, but my question is how to keep the plants viable over several days or a week of transport. They will be traveling from Baltimore to Minneapolis. Should I rinse off the soil and pack them in peat moss—bare root? Or should I try to keep them in soil? The truth is I’m not at all sure that I will have room in the car for three big peonies with huge root balls of soil. Any advice? I’ve looked online and can’t find suggestions on this. I have read that European settlers brought their peonies with them on ships so there must be a way to keep them viable.

Peony should be divided while dormant in early spring or in early fall. The tubers with be easier to transport if you divide the clumps into sections with a large knife. Each division should have at least three to five buds (eyes) and a good root system. Those with less than three buds will take several years to flower well. Those with more than five eyes tend to live off stored food reserves and do not produce a strong root system. Then pack the largest divisions into different packing materials. Peonies are often shipped as bare-root tubers or as potted plants. Try placing one division of each plant into peat moss. Place other clumps into a one or two gallon container back filled with a commercial soil less mix. To maximize root development, prune off all flower buds in the year after planting. Plants may be allowed to flower in the second year. Dig your planting area before you leave. Work organic material into the soil so it can settle. Do not allow the bare roots to sit in overly hot or freezing conditions while you are transporting them. Mulch the newly planted roots after the ground freezes.
Good luck with your project.