Peony Division Advice Needed (lots of questions)

Wusswolf(5b)September 27, 2012

My mom has this large old peony bush by her house, that has been there as far back as I can recall (I'm 30 now - it could be anywhere from 20-40 years for all I know). She's extremely sentimentally attached to this bush, and completely fears any sort of disturbance to the roots. She's very afraid of losing the plant.

Now, I'd love to have a division of it at my own home for the same sentimental reasons, but when I told her that "the internet" says you have to dig the entire plant up to propagate it, she paled at the thought.

My dad suggested that instead of digging up and separating her precious plant, that we simply take a sharp shovel/spade and slice down a section of the plant while it's in the ground and lift out said section - leaving majority of the plant alone. I can't seem to find anything online that condones this method though. Are there any reasons to avoid doing that? Will it greatly disturb and upset the parent plant?

Is there a very specific process I can go through to assure my mother that her plant will survive? Or is it even as delicate as she imagines? Also what time of year is best for doing this (Fall vs Spring)?

From what I've read on this forum tonight I think there's a very good chance her parent plant is already finding itself too deep in the soil - as this year Mom complained of not getting a single bloom for the first time in many years.

Any advice and help at all would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Your Dad is correct. I have done as he suggests many times, and the mother plant was never the worse for the loss of a slice off the edge. Best time is either the fall or early spring before new growth gets going. Al

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:09AM
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I'll post photos tomorrow when I find time, but today I was out visiting my parents early in the day and my mom decided to go with the advice of digging the whole thing up and dividing it around the yard in clumps. I must point out that none of us had a lot of peony knowledge to begin with... it wasn't until after it was dug up (some huge carrot-like roots had to be chopped near the ends), and chopped into separate chunks, that we found the little plastic tag that the roots had grown over - we got it out to read "Kinshi Yellow: TREE Peony."

We had all just assumed, because it was in the form of a large bush, that it was a bush peony. We never knew the difference. Soooo, yeah. I came home, and googled awhile before reading that you can divide a tree peony the same way as described above... but it rarely survives that way.

At this point I'm just hoping for the best, and hopefully at least one of Mom's survives (she planted five divisions in her yard). I planted my chunk just now in my flower bed, wish it luck!

Is there anything else I can do for these to up there chances, now that I've butchered them up?

Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 7:07PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

With a named variety it almost surely was grafted. With luck at least some of your divisions will include some of the graft and grow a replacement for mom. The fact that you did not find the tag until after digging is a good sign your tree was planted correctly deep and you have a chance of having rooted grafted material. It will take a couple of years to bloom and see what you have. Good luck. Al

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:11AM
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Here are a few images of what transpired. We did leave a good chunk of carrot-like root on each division, so I'm hoping that makes a difference (there were five more divisions made, not in these photos - the two on the right were the two I brought home).

Thank you so much for your help Al!


    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:29AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

All those with some of the above ground material will have a good chance to be the tree peony you are used to. It is important to keep the roots moist until planted. It is common to have large food storage tubers, resembling sweet potatoes. When you planted I hope you dug down about two feet, loosened up any compacted soil and added compost to the native soil. Most peonies, tree or not, are generally left for years in the same soil. Good luck, both you and your mother, Al

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 9:03AM
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Al, I've been waiting until today (the second bloom just opened) to share these with you! I was not only surprised when both sent up signs of life, but really shocked when each division sent up a bud! Thank you so much for all of the information and encouragement!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 12:34PM
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Your peony is beautiful! I love the luminous color. It looks a lot like SOUVENIR DE MAXINE CORNU tree peony. It also sometimes is called Kinkaku meaning Golden Pagoda.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 3:01PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Congratulations to you and your mother. Your tree peony is lovely and it looks like it is happy in its new site. Al

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 11:51AM
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What a great success story. Thanks for the follow up photos.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:34PM
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thanks for the follow up.
That is stunning. I now have a new name for my wish list.
So glad it came through ok. Mom must be thrilled to have the extra plants as well!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Wusswolf, please post pictures of your and your mother's plants when they bloom next spring, would love to see more of those beautiful flowers! Congratulations on your dividing success!!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 1:49AM
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Found it!!!! I skipped it first time through, looked at EVERY SINGLE PAGE before I thought of using the search function. It is a really beautiful peony, isn't it??!!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 11:31PM
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jackie_o(zone 5/6)

So gorgeous! I've always wanted this peony and after reading your post, I went on the hunt again and ordered one. Crossing my fingers that it's the right variety and as beautiful as yours!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 5:01PM
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