How To Plant Peonies Bare Root [ Full Guide ]

Peonies are a popular choice for gardeners due to their large, striking blooms and easy care. Planting peonies from bare roots is a cost-effective and efficient way to start these beautiful plants in your garden. When planting peonies from bare roots, it’s important to select the right planting location, prepare the planting hole properly, and choose the right bare-root peonies. In this guide, we will provide a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to planting peonies from bare roots, ensuring optimal growth and beautiful blooms in your garden.

Bare-root peonies are dormant plants that are lifted from the ground without soil around their roots. They are typically sold during the dormant season, making them an economical and convenient option for gardeners looking to add peonies to their landscapes. Planting peonies from bare roots requires careful attention to the planting site, soil preparation, and handling of the delicate roots in order to ensure successful growth and abundant blooms.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Peonies Bare Root

If you’re looking for a quick reference on how to plant peonies from bare roots, follow these essential steps:

  1. Choosing the Best Planting Location: Select a site with well-drained soil, full sunlight, and good air circulation.
  2. Preparing the Planting Hole: Dig a spacious hole, amending the soil if necessary, and creating a suitable environment for the peony roots.
  3. Selecting the Right Bare-Root Peonies: Choose high-quality bare-root peonies from a reputable supplier, ensuring healthy and viable plants.
  4. Planting the Peonies: Position the peony roots carefully in the hole, ensuring the eyes are at the right depth, backfill, and water thoroughly.
  5. Post-Planting Care: Mulch the planting area, provide regular watering, and monitor the growth of the newly planted peonies.

Following these steps will lay the foundation for healthy growth and abundant blooms from your bare-root peonies.

Choosing The Best Planting Location

Selecting the best location for planting bare-root peonies is crucial for their long-term health and success. When choosing a site for your peonies, consider the following factors:


Peonies thrive in full sunlight, so it’s important to find a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day. In areas with extremely hot summers, some afternoon shade can be beneficial to protect the plants from the intense heat. Additionally, ample sunlight ensures stronger stems, better flowering, and overall plant vigor.

Soil Drainage

Good soil drainage is essential for the health of peonies. They do not thrive in waterlogged soil, as this can lead to root rot and other issues. Choose a planting location with well-draining soil to prevent water from pooling around the roots. If your soil tends to retain water, consider amending it with organic matter such as compost to improve drainage.

Air Circulation

Peonies benefit from good air circulation, which helps prevent fungal diseases and promotes overall plant health. Avoid planting peonies in areas with dense, stagnant air, such as cramped corners or locations surrounded by tall, dense foliage. Instead, choose an open area with good air movement to provide optimal growing conditions for your peonies.

Preparing The Planting Hole

Once you’ve identified a suitable planting location, it’s time to prepare the planting hole for your bare-root peonies. Follow these steps to ensure the best start for your new peony plants:

Digging The Hole

The size of the planting hole is crucial for establishing healthy peonies. The hole should be approximately two feet wide and two feet deep. This spacious hole allows for proper root development and expansion. When digging the hole, ensure that the soil at the base is loose and free from compacted layers, which can hinder root growth.

Soil Amendment

Before placing the bare-root peony in the hole, take the opportunity to enrich the soil with organic matter. This can include well-rotted compost or aged manure, which helps improve soil structure, fertility, and water retention. Mix the organic matter thoroughly with the existing soil to create a nutrient-rich environment for the peony roots.

Creating A Mound

In the center of the planting hole, create a small mound of soil. This mound will provide a gentle elevation for the peony roots to rest upon, ensuring good drainage and reducing the risk of the roots sitting in water. The top of the mound should be level with the surrounding ground once the peony is planted.

Selecting The Right Bare-root Peonies

Selecting healthy and viable bare-root peonies is essential for successful establishment and growth. When choosing bare-root peonies, keep the following considerations in mind:

Reputable Supplier

Purchase bare-root peonies from a reputable supplier with a track record of providing high-quality plants. This ensures that you receive genuine peony varieties and reduces the risk of introducing diseases or pests into your garden.

Healthy Roots

Inspect the bare-root peonies carefully before purchasing. Look for firm, plump roots with multiple healthy, undamaged eyes (buds). Avoid peonies with shriveled or damaged roots, as they may struggle to establish and thrive after planting. Healthy roots are an indication of a robust and vigorous plant that will adapt well to its new environment.


Select bare-root peonies that are fresh and have been stored properly. Avoid purchasing plants that appear desiccated or have been kept in unfavorable conditions for an extended period. Fresh bare-root peonies have a higher chance of successful growth and establishment.

Planting The Peonies

With the planting location chosen, the hole prepared, and the bare-root peonies selected, it’s time to plant the peonies. Follow these steps for successful planting:

Positioning The Roots

Carefully position the bare-root peony in the center of the prepared planting hole. Spread the roots evenly around the mound in a natural, outward direction. Ensure that the eyes (buds) on the peony roots are located no more than 1-2 inches below the soil surface. Proper depth is crucial for healthy growth and blooming.

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Backfilling The Hole

Gently backfill the hole with the enriched soil, taking care not to bury the peony deeper than the recommended depth. Tamp the soil lightly as you fill the hole to remove air pockets and ensure good root-to-soil contact. Avoid compacting the soil excessively, as this can hinder water and air movement around the roots.


After planting, thoroughly water the peony to help settle the soil and provide essential moisture for the roots. Ensure that the entire planting area receives a deep soaking, as this helps the roots establish contact with the surrounding soil and promotes early growth.

Post-Planting Care

Once you have planted your bare-root peonies, it’s important to provide ongoing care to support their growth and development. Consider the following post-planting care tips:


Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or compost, around the base of the peony plant. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weed growth. Be sure to leave a small gap between the mulch and the stem of the peony to prevent moisture-related issues.


Peonies require regular watering, especially during the first growing season after planting. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged, as consistent moisture is crucial for establishing strong roots and promoting healthy foliage and blooms. During dry periods, provide supplemental watering to ensure adequate moisture levels.

Monitoring Growth

Keep an eye on the newly planted peonies and monitor their growth and overall health. Look for signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves, and address any issues promptly. As the plants emerge from dormancy and begin actively growing, provide support if needed and stake taller varieties to prevent flopping.

By providing proper post-planting care, you can help your newly planted bare-root peonies establish themselves and flourish in their new environment.

Planting peonies from bare roots is an exciting way to introduce these stunning flowering plants to your garden. By selecting the best planting location, preparing the planting hole thoughtfully, and choosing healthy bare-root peonies, you can set the stage for successful growth and bountiful blooms. Following the step-by-step process of planting and providing post-planting care will ensure that your bare-root peonies thrive and become a centerpiece in your garden for years to come. With attention to detail and proper care, you can enjoy the timeless beauty of peonies and the joy they bring to your outdoor space.

Soaking The Bare-root Peonies

Peonies are stunning flowering plants that can add beauty and elegance to any garden. These perennial plants are known for their large, fragrant blooms and come in a variety of colors. While peonies can be planted from seeds, one of the most common methods of propagation is through bare-root peonies. Planting peonies from bare roots allows for better control over the plant’s growth and ensures a stronger, healthier plant.

When you receive your bare-root peonies, it is essential to give them a good soak before planting. Soaking the roots before planting helps to rehydrate them and encourage healthy growth. Here’s how to soak the bare-root peonies:

  1. Fill a clean bucket or container with room temperature water. Make sure the container is large enough to fully submerge the roots of your peonies.

  2. Place the peony roots in the water, making sure they are fully submerged. It is important to note that the eyes, which are small red buds on the root, should be facing upwards.

  3. Allow the peonies to soak for at least 24 hours. This will help to rehydrate the roots and prepare them for planting.

  4. After soaking, remove the peony roots from the water and let them air dry for a few hours. This will allow any excess moisture to evaporate before planting.

Planting Depth Guidelines

Proper planting depth is crucial for the successful growth and blooming of peonies. Planting too deep or too shallow can hinder the plant’s development. Follow these guidelines to ensure the correct planting depth for your bare-root peonies:

  1. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. Peonies prefer well-drained soil, so it is beneficial to amend the soil with organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.

  2. Dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the peony roots comfortably. The depth of the hole should be determined by measuring from the bottom of the hole to the soil level.

  3. The general rule of thumb for peonies is to plant them at a depth where the eyes are positioned 1-2 inches below the soil surface. This will provide the roots with the necessary stability while allowing the eyes to emerge and grow.

  4. Place the peony root in the center of the hole, ensuring that the eyes are facing upwards. Gently spread the roots out in a fan shape, ensuring they are not cramped or crowded.

  5. Backfill the hole with soil, gently pressing it down around the roots to eliminate any air pockets. Take care not to cover the eyes with too much soil, as this can inhibit growth.

Proper Spacing

Proper spacing is essential when planting peonies. Adequate spacing allows the plants to grow and expand without competing for resources. Follow these guidelines to ensure the proper spacing for your peonies:

  1. Allow a minimum of 3 feet of space between each peony plant. This will provide enough room for the mature plant to grow and spread.

  2. If you are planting multiple peonies, make sure to space them at least 3-4 feet apart. This will allow the plants to develop a robust root system without overcrowding.

  3. Consider the mature size of the peony variety you are planting. Some peonies can spread up to 4 feet in diameter, so it is important to provide enough space for them to thrive.

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Watering And Fertilizing Requirements

Proper watering and fertilizing are crucial for the healthy growth and blooming of peonies. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Watering:

    • After planting, water the peonies thoroughly to settle the soil and provide moisture to the roots.

    • During the growing season, peonies require about 1 inch of water per week. This can be achieved through a combination of rainfall and supplemental watering if needed.

    • It is important not to overwater peonies, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot. Ensure that the soil is well-drained and avoid creating waterlogged conditions.

    • Mulching around the base of the peonies can help retain moisture in the soil and regulate temperature. Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, but ensure it is kept away from the crown of the plant.

  2. Fertilizing:

    • Peonies benefit from a balanced fertilizer applied in early spring before new growth emerges. Use a slow-release granular fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-10.

    • Avoid applying high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote excessive foliage growth at the expense of blooms.

    • Be cautious not to over-fertilize, as it can hinder flower production and result in weaker stems that may require staking.

    • Once the peonies have finished blooming, you can apply a light application of balanced fertilizer to provide nutrients for the development of next year’s buds.

    • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying fertilizers, and water the plants thoroughly after application.

Planting peonies bare root can be a rewarding and enjoyable gardening experience. By properly soaking the bare-root peonies, planting them at the correct depth, spacing them adequately, and providing them with proper watering and fertilizing, you can ensure the healthy growth and abundant blooming of these beautiful flowers. Remember to choose a well-drained location with plenty of sunlight for your peonies and provide them with the care and attention they need. With patience and proper care, your garden will soon be adorned with the breathtaking blooms of peonies.

Mulching Techniques

Peonies are exquisite flowering plants that can add beauty and elegance to any garden. Planting peonies bare root is a popular method of propagation as it allows for easier handling and transportation. While it may seem intimidating to plant peonies bare root, with the right techniques and care, you can ensure a successful and thriving peony garden.

Mulching is an essential practice to protect and nourish your peonies. Here are some mulching techniques to follow when planting peonies bare root:

1. Timing

It’s important to choose the right time for mulching your peonies. Ideally, mulching should be done in late fall or early spring after the ground has frozen and thawed, but before new growth emerges. This timing will help protect the peony roots from extreme cold temperatures and provide insulation during the winter months.

2. Material

Selecting the appropriate mulch material is crucial for the health of your peonies. Organic mulches are highly recommended, as they improve soil structure, retain moisture, and gradually release nutrients. Some suitable organic mulch options include compost, well-rotted manure, shredded leaves, or straw. Avoid using inorganic mulches like rocks or plastic, as they can hinder the peony’s growth and drainage.

3. Application

When applying mulch, start by removing any weeds or debris from around the peony plant. Then, spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plant, ensuring it is around 2-3 inches thick. Take care not to mound the mulch against the stem, as this can lead to rotting. Leave a small space around the stem to allow for air circulation.

4. Mulch Maintenance

Regularly monitor the mulch layer throughout the growing season. If the mulch becomes compacted or starts to break down, add a fresh layer to maintain the desired thickness. Additionally, weed the area around the peony regularly to prevent competition for nutrients and water.

Staking And Supporting Your Peonies

Depending on the variety and growth habit of your peonies, staking and supporting may be necessary to prevent the stems from bending or breaking. Follow these guidelines to properly stake and support your peonies:

1. Timing

It’s best to stake and support your peonies early in the growing season, before they start to develop large flower buds. This will ensure that the supports are in place before the heavy blooms appear.

2. Materials

Several materials can be used to stake and support your peonies, including bamboo stakes, metal rods, or commercial peony rings. Bamboo stakes are a popular and cost-effective option, as they are strong and readily available. Make sure the stakes are long enough to support the full height of the peony plant.

3. Installation

To stake your peony, carefully insert the stake into the ground, approximately 6 inches away from the base of the plant. Gently push the stake until it reaches the desired depth, ensuring it is stable and firmly rooted. If using multiple stakes, place them equidistantly around the plant to provide balanced support.

4. Tying And Supporting

Using soft and flexible material, such as garden twine or plant clips, gently tie the stems of the peony to the stake. Ensure the tie is secure, but not too tight as it can damage the stems. Create several ties along the stem, especially for taller or heavier varieties. It’s important to tie the stems loosely to allow for natural movement and growth.

5. Additional Support

For larger or heavier peony varieties, additional support may be required. Peony rings are an excellent option as they provide a circular structure for the peony to grow within. Place the ring around the peony and gently guide the stems through the openings. This will prevent the stems from falling or bending under the weight of the blooms.

Potential Problems And Solutions

Even with proper care, peonies can face a few potential problems. Here are some common issues you may encounter and their respective solutions:

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1. Insufficient Flowering

If your peonies are not producing an abundant amount of flowers, it could be due to several factors. Lack of sunlight, inadequate nutrition, or overcrowding of neighboring plants can negatively affect flower production. Ensure your peonies receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day, fertilize annually with a balanced fertilizer, and give them enough space to grow without being shaded or crowded.

2. Disease And Pest Infestation

Peonies can be susceptible to diseases such as botrytis blight, powdery mildew, and root rot. To prevent disease, make sure your peonies have good airflow and avoid overcrowding. If you notice any signs of disease, promptly remove and destroy affected foliage or plants. Additionally, pests like aphids, thrips, or nematodes can cause damage to your peonies. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of infestation and treat with appropriate organic pesticides if necessary.

3. Floppy Stems

If your peony stems are weak or floppy, it may be due to inadequate support or improper staking. Make sure you stake your peonies early in the growing season and use appropriate materials for support, as discussed earlier in the article. If the stems still become floppy, gently tie them to the stake with flexible garden twine to provide additional support and prevent bending.

4. Non-Flowering Varieties

Some peony varieties may take a few years to establish and produce blooms. If you have recently planted a variety known for its late flowering, be patient and give it sufficient time to establish a strong root system. However, if you have had a peony for several years that still hasn’t flowered, it may be due to improper planting depth. Dig up and replant the peony with the eyes (buds) positioned no more than 2 inches below the soil surface.

Care And Maintenance Of Your Peonies

To ensure the longevity and thriving of your peonies, it’s crucial to provide regular care and maintenance. Here are some essential practices to follow:

1. Watering

Peonies require consistent and adequate moisture, especially during the growing season. Water deeply once a week, ensuring the soil is evenly soaked. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. Mulching around the plants will help retain moisture in the soil and reduce the need for frequent watering.

2. Fertilizing

Applying a balanced fertilizer annually in early spring will provide the necessary nutrients for your peonies. Use a slow-release fertilizer or organic alternatives, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and methods. Avoid excessive use of nitrogen, as it can encourage foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

3. Deadheading

Deadheading is the removal of spent blooms and is beneficial for both the appearance and health of your peonies. As the flowers fade, trim them down to the first set of healthy leaves or buds on the stem. This practice directs the plant’s energy into developing new buds rather than producing seeds.

4. Division

Over time, peonies may become overcrowded and produce fewer flowers. Dividing the plants every 5-10 years can rejuvenate their growth and maintain their vigor. The best time to divide peonies is in early fall after the foliage has died back. Carefully dig up the plant, ensuring you retain a generous amount of attached roots. Gently separate the clumps into sections, making sure each section has at least 3-5 eyes (buds). Replant the divisions at the appropriate depth, following the same planting instructions for bare root peonies.

5. Winter Protection

To protect your peonies during the winter months, ensure they are properly mulched as discussed in the earlier section. Additionally, in areas with harsh winters or strong winds, it may be helpful to erect a windbreak or burlap screen around your peonies to shield them from harsh weather conditions. Remove the screen in early spring to allow for new growth.


Planting peonies bare root can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By following the mulching techniques, staking and supporting methods, addressing potential problems and solutions, and implementing proper care and maintenance, you can create a stunning peony garden that will bloom year after year. Remember to provide your peonies with the necessary attention and care they require, and soon you will be rewarded with vibrant and breathtaking blooms that will bring joy to your garden.


What Is The Best Time To Plant Peonies?

The best time to plant peonies is in the fall, between September and November, as this allows the roots to establish before the winter season.

How Do I Prepare The Planting Site For Peonies?

Choose a site with well-draining soil that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Remove any weeds and loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches.

How Should I Handle Bare Root Peonies?

When you receive the bare root peonies, soak them in water for 24 hours before planting. This rehydrates the roots and prepares them for planting.

How Deep Should I Plant Bare Root Peonies?

Plant the peony roots at a depth of 2 inches below the soil surface. Make sure the eyes (or growing points) are facing upwards.

How Often Should I Water My Newly Planted Peonies?

Water your peonies deeply once a week, providing about 1 inch of water per week. After the first year, they will only need to be watered during dry spells. Avoid overwatering, as it can cause root rot.