How To Plant Bare Root Peony [ Full Guide ]

Peonies are beloved for their large, showy blooms and intoxicating fragrance, making them a cherished addition to any garden. Planting bare root peonies is a great way to introduce these stunning flowers to your landscape. If you’re new to gardening or haven’t worked with bare root plants before, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the process step by step. From selecting the right time for planting to ensuring your peonies thrive in their new home, this article covers everything you need to know to successfully plant and care for bare root peonies.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Bare Root Peony

  • Choose a suitable planting location with well-draining soil and at least 6 hours of sunlight.
  • Plant peonies in the fall, ideally in late September or October.
  • Prepare the soil by adding organic matter and ensuring proper drainage.
  • Soak the bare root peony in water for a few hours before planting.
  • Dig a generous planting hole and set the peony at the appropriate depth.
  • Backfill the hole and water thoroughly after planting.

Choosing The Right Time To Plant Bare Root Peonies

Planting bare root peonies at the right time is crucial for their successful establishment. The optimal time to plant bare root peonies is in the fall, typically in late September or October. This period allows the peony roots to establish themselves before the onset of winter, ensuring they are ready to burst into growth when spring arrives. Planting in the fall also gives the peonies time to develop a strong root system, which is essential for healthy growth and abundant blooms in the upcoming seasons.

Preparing The Planting Site

Selecting an ideal location for planting bare root peonies is essential to their long-term health and productivity. Choose a site with at least 6 hours of sunlight, as adequate sunlight is crucial for promoting robust growth and prolific flowering. Additionally, ensure the chosen spot has well-draining soil, as peonies are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged conditions. Avoid areas with standing water or heavy clay soil, as these can hinder the peonies’ growth and lead to root issues.

Soil Requirements For Bare Root Peonies

Peonies thrive in well-drained, fertile soil. Before planting, it’s important to prepare the soil to provide an optimal growing environment for the peonies. Begin by testing the soil pH using a simple at-home test kit. Peonies prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. If the soil is too acidic, amend it with agricultural lime to raise the pH, or if it’s too alkaline, add elemental sulfur to lower the pH.

In addition to adjusting the pH, enrich the soil with organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure, or peat moss. Working organic matter into the soil improves its structure, fertility, and drainage, creating a hospitable environment for the peonies to thrive. Aim to incorporate the organic amendments to a depth of at least 12 inches to ensure the peony roots have access to vital nutrients and moisture.

Planting bare root peonies is a rewarding endeavor that yields stunning, long-lasting blooms year after year. By selecting the right planting time, preparing a suitable location, and amending the soil to meet the peonies’ needs, you can provide these magnificent flowers with an optimal growing environment. Remember that successful peony planting is not just about the day of planting, but also about the care and attention you provide in the weeks and months that follow. With proper planting and ongoing maintenance, your bare root peonies will delight you with their exquisite beauty and fragrance for many seasons to come.

Preparing Your Bare Root Peonies For Planting

Bare root peonies are a popular choice among garden enthusiasts due to their stunning blooms and ease of planting. Unlike potted plants, bare root peonies are sold without soil, allowing for easier transportation and planting. However, planting bare root peonies requires proper care and technique to ensure the plants thrive in their new environment.

Before you begin planting your bare root peonies, it is crucial to prepare the plants properly. Follow these steps to ensure your peonies have the best chance of thriving:

  1. Inspect the bare root peonies: Carefully examine each bare root peony to ensure it is healthy and free from any signs of disease or damage. Look for plump, firm roots and healthy-looking buds or eyes (small pink or white growth points).

  2. Soak the bare root peonies: Fill a bucket or container with water and soak the bare root peonies for 4-6 hours. This hydrates the roots and prepares them for planting.

  3. Prepare the planting area: Select a location in your garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and has well-drained soil. Avoid low-lying areas where water tends to accumulate.

  4. Improve soil drainage: If the soil in your chosen planting area retains too much moisture, you should amend it to improve drainage. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or peat moss to loosen the soil and enhance its ability to drain excess water.

  5. Remove weeds and debris: Clear the planting area of any weeds, rocks, or other debris that may hinder the growth of your peonies.

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It is essential to complete these preparatory steps to ensure a healthy start for your bare root peonies.

Planting Your Bare Root Peonies

Once your bare root peonies are prepped, you can proceed to plant them in your garden using the following guidelines:

  1. Dig a hole: Use a shovel or a garden fork to dig a hole that is approximately two feet wide and one foot deep. This size hole will provide ample room for your peony plant to grow and expand.

  2. Loosen the soil: Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole using a garden fork. This step helps promote root penetration and overall plant establishment.

  3. Add compost: Incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the loosened soil at the bottom of the hole. This organic matter will enrich the soil and provide essential nutrients for your peony plant.

  4. Place the bare root peony: Gently position the bare root peony in the center of the hole, ensuring that the eyes (buds) are facing upward. The top of the root should be located approximately two inches below the soil surface.

  5. Backfill the hole: Carefully backfill the hole with the enriched soil, tamping it down lightly as you go to remove any air pockets. Avoid compacting the soil too firmly, as this can hinder root growth.

  6. Water thoroughly: After planting, water the newly planted bare root peony thoroughly to settle the soil and ensure good root-to-soil contact. Aim to provide enough water to moisten the entire root zone.

  7. Mulch the planting area: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the peony plant. Mulching helps retain moisture, suppresses weeds, and regulates soil temperature.

Watering Bare Root Peonies

Proper watering is crucial for the establishment and healthy growth of bare root peonies. Follow these tips to ensure your peonies receive adequate moisture:

  1. Monitor soil moisture: Keep a close eye on the soil moisture levels around your newly planted bare root peonies. The soil should be evenly moist, but not waterlogged, to prevent root rot.

  2. Water deeply: When watering, ensure that the water penetrates deep into the soil, reaching the roots. Shallow watering only encourages shallow root growth, making the plants more susceptible to drought stress.

  3. Water consistently: Especially during the first year of planting, it is important to maintain consistent soil moisture levels. Water the peonies regularly, especially during dry spells, to prevent wilting and promote healthy growth.

  4. Avoid overwatering: While it is important to provide adequate moisture, it is equally important to avoid overwatering. Excessive water can lead to root rot and other problems. Check the soil moisture before watering to prevent unnecessary moisture accumulation.

Fertilizing Bare Root Peonies

Fertilizing your bare root peonies is essential for promoting vigorous growth and abundant blooms. Here are some guidelines to follow when fertilizing your plants:

  1. Timing: Wait until after the first year of planting before applying fertilizer to your bare root peonies. This gives the plants enough time to establish a strong root system.

  2. Use a balanced fertilizer: Choose a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). This will provide a good supply of essential nutrients without favoring excessive foliage growth over flower production.

  3. Apply in early spring: Spread the fertilizer evenly around the peony plant in early spring, just as new growth begins to emerge. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the appropriate amount to use based on the size of your peonies.

  4. Avoid direct contact: Keep the fertilizer at least six inches away from the base of the plant to prevent root burn. Water the area thoroughly after applying the fertilizer to help it dissolve and reach the root system.

  5. Top-dress with compost: In addition to regular fertilization, top-dressing your peonies with compost each spring can provide an additional boost of nutrients. Apply a thin layer of compost around the base of the plants, being careful not to bury the crowns.

Planting bare root peonies can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, yielding stunning blooms year after year. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your bare root peonies have the best start in their new environment.

Remember to inspect and prepare your peonies before planting, select a suitable location with good drainage, and provide adequate water and nutrients during the establishment period. With proper care and attention, your bare root peonies will flourish, adding beauty and elegance to your garden for years to come.

Mulching Bare Root Peonies

Peonies are beautiful, long-lived flowering plants that bring elegance and charm to any garden. While there are different methods of planting peonies, one popular option is using bare root plants. Bare root peonies are dormant plants that have been dug up without any soil around their roots. Planting bare root peonies can be a little different from planting potted or container-grown peonies, but with the right steps, you can ensure their successful growth and blooming.

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Mulching is an essential step in planting and protecting bare root peonies. It helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and insulate the soil during cold winter months. Here’s how you can mulch your bare root peonies effectively:

  1. After planting the bare root peony, ensure that the soil is evenly moist but not overly saturated. This will give the peony the hydration it needs to establish its roots.

  2. Once the soil is moist, spread a layer of organic mulch around the planted peony. Good choices for mulch include compost, well-rotted manure, or shredded bark. Avoid using peat moss as a mulch, as it tends to dry out and become hydrophobic.

  3. Apply the mulch in a layer that is about 2-3 inches thick, making sure to leave a small gap around the base of the peony to prevent rot.

  4. Extend the mulch to cover the entire planting area where the peony is located. This will help protect the roots from extreme temperatures and fluctuations in weather.

  5. Replenish the mulch every year in the spring before new growth begins. This will help maintain the moisture levels and suppress weed growth.

Staking Bare Root Peonies

Staking is an important step in supporting the growth of bare root peonies, as their large flowers can sometimes cause the stems to bend or break. Here’s how you can stake your bare root peonies effectively:

  1. Install the stakes before or immediately after planting the bare root peony. This will prevent any disturbance to the roots later on.

  2. Place the stakes around the peony, ensuring they are evenly spaced and positioned near the perimeter of the plant.

  3. Use soft ties or twine to loosely secure the stems of the peony to the stakes. Be careful not to tie them too tightly, as this may restrict growth and damage the stems.

  4. As the peony grows, check the stakes periodically to ensure they are still providing adequate support. Adjust the ties if necessary, giving the stems enough room to grow and expand.

  5. Avoid using rigid or inflexible materials for staking, as they may cause damage to the peony stems. Opt for bamboo stakes or flexible plant ties to prevent any harm to the plant.

Pruning Bare Root Peonies

Pruning bare root peonies is essential for maintaining their health, promoting vigorous growth, and maximizing flower production. Here’s how you can prune your bare root peonies effectively:

  1. Wait until the first spring after planting to prune your bare root peonies. This will allow the plant to establish its root system and ensure survival.

  2. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased stems and leaves from the peony. Use sharp, clean pruning shears to make clean cuts just above a bud.

  3. Cut back any weak or spindly stems to encourage stronger growth. Trim these stems back to the ground, allowing space for healthier shoots to emerge.

  4. Avoid heavy pruning during the first years after planting to allow the peony to establish itself fully. Once the plant is well-established, you can prune more heavily to control size and shape.

  5. After the peony has finished blooming in the spring or early summer, deadhead the spent flowers. This will prevent the plant from wasting energy on seed production and encourage it to put its energy into root development.

  6. In the fall, once the foliage has died back, cut it down to the ground and remove it from the planting area. This will help prevent the spread of diseases and pests.

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Common Problems With Bare Root Peonies

While bare root peonies are generally hardy and low-maintenance plants, they can still face a few common problems. Here are some issues you may encounter and how to address them effectively:

  1. Root rot: Overwatering or poorly drained soil can lead to root rot in peonies. To prevent this, ensure that the soil is well-drained and avoid overwatering. If you notice signs of root rot, such as wilting, yellowing leaves, or a foul smell, assess the drainage and adjust the watering accordingly.

  2. Fungal diseases: Peonies can be susceptible to fungal diseases such as botrytis blight and powdery mildew. To prevent these diseases, ensure proper air circulation around the plants by spacing them adequately. Avoid overhead watering and remove any infected plant material promptly. Applying a fungicide labeled for peonies can also help control fungal diseases.

  3. Bud drop: Sometimes, peonies may experience bud drop, where the flower buds fail to open. This can be due to environmental stress, such as extreme heat or cold, or nutrient deficiencies. To prevent bud drop, ensure that the peony receives adequate water and is placed in a location with suitable temperature conditions. Providing a balanced fertilizer can also help prevent nutrient deficiencies.

  4. Ants on buds: Peonies attract ants because they secrete a sweet substance on their buds. However, ants do not cause harm to the peonies. If you find ants on your peony buds, simply leave them be, as their presence does not affect the overall health or blooming of the plant.


Planting bare root peonies can be a rewarding experience, as these beautiful flowers can add remarkable beauty to any garden landscape. Mulching, staking, pruning, and addressing common problems are all crucial steps in ensuring the successful growth and blooming of bare root peonies. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can confidently plant and care for your bare root peonies, enjoying their enchanting blooms for years to come.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Bare Root Peonies?

The best time to plant bare root peonies is in the fall, typically between late September and early November. This allows the plants to establish their root systems before the winter frost sets in.

How Do I Prepare The Planting Area For Bare Root Peonies?

The planting area should be in a sunny location with well-draining soil. It is important to remove any weeds or debris and loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. Adding organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, can also help improve the soil quality.

How Deep Should I Plant A Bare Root Peony?

The depth of planting will depend on the size of the peony root. Generally, the root should be planted at a depth of 2-3 inches, with the top of the root just below the soil surface. This will allow the plant to establish a strong root system and prevent the crown from rotting.

How Often Should I Water Newly Planted Bare Root Peonies?

Watering frequency will vary depending on your climate and soil conditions, but as a general rule, keep the soil consistently moist for the first few weeks after planting. After that, water deeply once a week, or more often during periods of hot, dry weather.

Do Bare Root Peonies Need Fertilizer?

It is not necessary to fertilize newly planted bare root peonies. However, once the plant has established itself and begins to produce foliage, you can apply a slow-release fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 blend, in early spring. Avoid getting fertilizer on the foliage to prevent burning.