The Best Time to Plant Peony Roots for Beautiful Blooms

The hardy, fall-flowering peony has some of the most showy flowers around. Its huge blooms are often as big as dinner plates.

Peonies come in three different types: herbaceous types, which die back to the ground every winter; tree peonies, which stay upright all winter because they’re taller and have more woody stems; and intersectional hybrids, which are a mix of tree and herbaceous types but are harder to find.

Peonies are prized for their lush, fragrant blooms that burst forth each spring. But when is the ideal time to plant peony roots to ensure success with these perennial flowering favorites? The season you plant peonies makes a big difference in how quickly they establish and begin flowering abundantly

Why Fall is Best for Planting Peony Roots

The optimal time for planting bare root peonies is in early fall, typically September and October. In warmer southern climates, late fall planting extending into November can also work well.

Fall planting allows peony roots to develop a strong root system before winter dormancy. The roots continue growing until the ground freezes. This sets peonies up for vigorous growth and the best chance of flowering the following spring.

Spring Planting Has Drawbacks

Planting peony roots in spring can be done with success, but it has some disadvantages compared to fall planting. When planted in spring, peony roots have less time to establish before summer dormancy. This often results in reduced growth and fewer or no flowers the first season.

Spring-planted peonies tend to lag one year behind fall-planted peonies in terms of maturity and flowering performance. It usually takes an extra year for them to settle in and start blooming prolifically compared to fall plantings.

optimal Fall Planting Times by Region

The best fall planting time varies slightly across the country depending on when winter weather arrives


Plant peonies in September or early October to allow at least 6-8 weeks of growth before the ground freezes.


Mid-September to mid-October is ideal. Aim for 4-6 weeks of root growth before winter.


In warmer zones 7-9, plant peonies anytime from mid-October to early December. Later fall planting is fine here since ground freeze comes later.

Pacific Northwest

Plant peonies in early October before heavy fall rains arrive. Goal is 4-6 weeks of growth before winter dormancy.

California and Southwest

Plant peonies in November or December to avoid dry summer and fall weather. Time it 6-8 weeks before freezing for optimal root establishment.

Prepare Soil in Advance for Fall Planting

To get your peony planting area ready in fall, improve soil structure and nutrients in early summer or early fall. Add aged compost or other organic matter and mix into the top 6-12 inches of soil. This gives the organic matter time to break down prior to planting.

Test drainage by digging a hole 12 inches deep, filling it with water, and checking if it drains completely within 12 hours. Improve drainage before planting if needed by incorporating organic material or small gravel.

Order Peony Roots in Late Summer

Purchase and receive peony roots in late summer or early fall. Plant promptly upon delivery for best results. Order early as rare and new introductions sell out fast. Bare root peonies ordered in fall are typically shipped starting in September through November.

Select varieties suited to your USDA zone. Try heirloom varieties along with newer introductions. Consider planting early, mid and late season bloomers for an extended peony display.

How to Plant Peonies in Fall

Here are some tips for proper bare root peony planting in fall:

  • Prepare soil well in advance and improve drainage if needed.

  • Plant peonies in full sun locations with good air circulation.

  • Space peonies 3-4 feet apart to allow for future growth.

  • Dig holes wide and deep enough to easily accommodate roots.

  • Carefully spread roots out and plant with pink buds (eyes) just below soil surface.

  • Water thoroughly after planting and water weekly if soil is dry until hard freeze.

  • Mulch newly planted peonies with 2-3 inches of organic mulch. Pull mulch away from crowns in spring.

First Year Peony Care

Continue watering peonies periodically through fall until the ground freezes. Water again in early spring if needed until regular rains resume. Apply an organic or slow-release granular fertilizer when new growth begins in spring.

Watch for sprouting foliage in spring which indicates roots survived winter. Be patient as some varieties sprout later than others. Remove mulch from crowns as growth starts. Peonies often do not flower the first spring but focus energy on root development. But you may get a few blooms from early varieties.

Benefits of Fall Peony Planting

Compared to spring planting, fall planting of bare root peonies offers several advantages:

  • Stronger root development before winter dormancy
  • Higher likelihood of blooming next spring
  • Larger plants and more flowers in second year
  • Reaches maturity and full flowering sooner

To get your peonies off to the best start, make fall the time to get these spectacular perennials planted. Then enjoy watching them flourish into breath-taking blooms year after year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Planting Peony Roots

Whether you’re new to growing peonies or looking to expand your collection, you likely have several questions about getting these gorgeous plants started right. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about peony planting.

What type of soil do peonies like?

Peonies thrive in fertile, well-draining soil. They tolerate a wide range of soil types including clay and sandy loam. But excellent drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Amend soil with compost to improve nutrients and texture.

How deep do you plant peony roots?

Plant peony roots with pink buds (eyes) just at or barely below the soil surface. Depth is critical. Planting too deep prevents sprouting. Too shallow leaves roots exposed. Cover eyes with 1-2 inches of soil for optimal results.

Do you soak peony roots before planting?

Soaking is not necessary but can help rehydrate shriveled roots after shipping. If roots are dry, soak for 1-2 hours before planting. Use room temperature water. Don’t leave in water more than 6 hours.

Can you divide peonies in spring or summer?

Ideally divide peonies in early fall. But if relocating an existing plant when not dormant, early spring is better than summer. Try to finish divisions 4-6 weeks before last spring frost for root recovery before summer dormancy.

Should peonies be mulched for winter?

Mulching with 2-3 inches of organic matter such as shredded leaves or pine straw helps insulate newly planted peony roots from severe cold. Remove excess mulch from crowns in spring as growth resumes.

When do peonies bloom if planted in fall?

Most peonies flower the second spring after a fall planting. A few early varieties may bloom lightly the first year. Expect fuller flowering starting year two which increases each year as plants mature.

Can you plant a peony in a pot?

Potted peonies require large containers, at least 10-15 gallons. Use fast-draining potting mix amended with compost. Protect in winter to avoid root damage from repetitive freezing and thawing. Replant in ground within 2-3 years as potted peonies decline over time.

Preparing soil properly, purchasing high quality roots, and planting peonies at the optimal time in fall gives them the best start. Follow best practices for planting and care, and you’ll enjoy stunning peony flowers for many years to come.

How to grow peonies

All peonies require a moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Provide support for varieties with large flowers. Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn, while tree peonies are better propagated by layering.

More on growing peonies:

How to propagate peonies

when to plant peony roots

Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn. Cut the faded foliage back and lift the plant with a garden fork. Take out as much garden soil as you can, and use a knife to cut off pieces of the crown. Each section should have at least three buds and plenty of root. Replant straight away in the garden.

Don’t try to divide tree peonies. Instead, you may be able to try layering a pliable stem, or sowing seed.

Planting bare root peonies in the spring

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