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Perennials/storing for winter


We are having some extensive work done around the foundation of our house and I will have to dig up my flower border of peonies and old fashioned day lilies and winter them over.  What is the best way to do this?  I will not be able to dig all of them as there are so many, so saving the best and then replanting in spring is my only option.  Someone suggested a straw bed, but here in north central Indiana we get some pretty heavy freezes that I'm afraid that wouldn't be enough protection.  I have an unheated barn and a garage.  
I'd appreciate your advice as these are really special plants that I don't want to lose.

Lady Alexandra Duff
Lady Alexandra Duff  

Lady Alexandra Duff
Lady Alexandra Duff  
Greetings Zoe,

Some of my advice to you will relate to your zone, which I assume is like mine, perhaps 5a. I have dug up and overwintered peonies and roses in my unheated garage, so I know that you can definitely do this with success.

Part of the issue has to do with the maturity of your plants. Digging up daylilies and peonies can be a challenge. But if you are prepared to divide the plants, you can definitely put them in pots of good soil (I used lots of compost), and put them all the way to the rear of your unheated properties. I also covered them with old quilts from the thrift store.


Dig up, dividing if necessary, the peonies and daylilies most precious to you. Get a good root section.

Put the plants in a pot that can accommodate their roots, and use good soil - but no fertilizer.

Put them in the back of whatever structure you have chosen - either should work well.

Cover them with old blankets or quilts. The darkness will help to keep them dormant, and the covering provides protection from severe temperatures.

Once a month, go check on them and give them two or three ounces of water. Just a bit to keep them from completely drying out.

Please see the pictures below. I dug up peony Lady Alexandra Duff, put her in a pot, overwintered her, and it worked!

Best wishes,



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Donna Mack


I am a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension.I can answer questions about pest control, especially voles, rabbits, chipmunks and slugs, and have done so on Dave's Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack since 2002. I have a lot of expertise with ornamental grasses, hardy roses and old garden roses, minor bulbs such as ornigothalem, chionodoxa and allium as well as most types of lilies. I lived in a conservaton community and have great familiarity with native plants. I am knowledgeable about organic methods and I grow perennials, annuals and vegetables from seed.


I have been gardening since 1998 and have raised roses, peonies, annuals and perennials (the latter two from seed), and numerous shrubs and trees, many of which I have planted. I am familiar with many organic techniques and use as many as I can but know the chemical solutions, which are most benign and how to use them. I LOVE gardening, and I get great satisfaction with helping others so that they reach the state of joy that gardening can bring to those inclined to it.

The American Lily Society and the Wisconsin Illinois Lily Society

I have numerous entries in Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack. I write three to four columns a year for the Kane County Chronicle. I also write articles for Daves Garden Watchdog.

I successfully completed the University of Illinois Master Gardening Program in March of 2013 and have maintained my certification every year since. I did this to augment extensive self study through books (I've probably read 100) and an arts degree, which helps with aesthetics. I am purely an amateur, but one who studies, reads, and documents extensively. My gardening log began in 2000, and has hundreds of entries, so that I can use my successes and failures to assist other gardeners.

Awards and Honors
The University of Illinois created a Team with Work Award for master gardeners who work together to create what they regard as an outstanding project. I won this award as part of a group that created "The Idea Garden", which suggests plants for home growers to attempt to grow. My personal contribution was salvias - ornamental and culinary hardy and tender perennials, which I grew from seed and tended through the season. I have recently been asked to join the Speakers Bureau, which would require me to present topics to various groups under the auspices of the Master Gardening program.

Past/Present Clients
I am currently overseeing and performing the maintenance of ten gardens in a suburbs of Chicago.

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