How to move a peony bush without upsetting the fairies / by Suzanne


I’m excited about our backyard make-over but nervous about the fate of two spectacular peony bushes.

I need to move them before yard work begins. But here’s the thing: peony plants, especially mature ones like the ones in our yard, don’t like to be moved. Plus now is not the best time; autumn, when peonies are entering dormancy, is ideal. But I can’t wait until then. 


In the Victorian age it was considered unlucky to dig up a peony bush and, if you did, the fairies would curse you. 

I dislike thoughts of upsetting fairies or inviting curses and yet determined to save the peonies before the yard gets dug up. I'm hopeful yet aware the odds of a successful transplant aren’t necessarily in my favour.

Now may not be the best time for transplanting but there are factors I have control over, which might make the move less traumatic. 


It’s challenging to transplant a mature peony without causing root damage. To invite success - and by success I mean a bush that continues to produce blooms - I plan to proceed carefully and respectfully, digging as wide and as deep as possible to minimize disturbance. 

Next, I will replant quickly and in a sunny location, taking care to plant the bushes no deeper than they were growing before. The more shallow the better.

A little added compost will help.


Even if all goes well the peonies might be resentful; it's normal to lose a couple of seasons of blooms after a transplant.  

It might be awhile before these bushes flower again and, since peony season is so fleeting, here are a few tips to help you really enjoy these elegant blooms while they’re here:

Bring them inside and place them in single stem vases or in bunches in larger vases.

Cut the buds before they’ve fully opened but after they’ve started to crack.

Give stems an angle cut.

The more foliage you strip off before you put them in water, the more the water will hydrate the flower heads and cause them to open quickly. 

Ants love the sticky syrup that appears on the buds. They usually parade off but if the ants haven’t left and you want to bring cut flowers inside, cut the stems and place the flowers in a water-filled vase, place it in the shade and leave outside overnight. The ants should vacate and then you can bring the flowers inside without bringing the ants in, too.

Peony blooms dry beautifully. Attach a rubber band around each stem or bunch and hang flowers upside down. Allow to dry for one to two weeks or until they are no longer limp when turned right side up.