Tips for Growing, Caring and Planting Peonies

Peonies are big and graceful, but also fragrant and elegant. They have been a perennial favorite for over a century. Becky Swenson, owner of Swenson Gardens, says that peonies are a symbol of emotion. Her company boasts 15,000 peony plants, and approximately 250 varieties. This makes them the largest hybridizer of peony varieties in the world.

Peonies can be grown in all 50 states of the United States, including Alaska. They are able to withstand USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2-8. Swenson says, “When it’s cold, you’re hungry for color.” “The flowers are so beautiful.”

Peonies: Where to Plant

  • Peonies should not be planted in areas where they will compete for nutrients and light with other trees or shrubs nearby. Good soil is where peonies will get at least six hours of sunlight per day. Eight hours is the ideal. Peonies that grow in southern Plant Hardiness zones may require cooling afternoon shade.
  • Plant peonies in containers if you have a balcony or patio that isn’t enough. You should look for dwarf varieties and ensure that your container is at least 18 inches in depth and width. To prevent overwatering and excessive rain, potted peonies require plenty of space for their roots as well as multiple drainage holes. They are also more vulnerable to freezing temperatures so they may need to be kept in a garage.

When to Plant Peonies

  • Peonies that are bare-root shipped by most growers in the fall. This is the best time to plant them and get them ready for the next growing season.
  • Swenson recommends purchasing peonies from nurseries within your zone of growth so they are already accustomed to the environment.
  • Potted peonies can be purchased at garden centers in the spring. They may not bloom the second year after being planted because they have stored up energy from the first-season flowers and transplants.

How to Plant Peonies

  • You should dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root you plan to plant.
  • Mix the soil with some composted cow manure, and add a cup Milorganite to it and then return it to your hole.
  • Place the roots facing upwards with the eyes (the small red buds that emerge from the tops of the roots). They shouldn’t be planted more than 1 or 2 inches below the soil cover.
  • Itoh, also known as intersectional peonies, should be approximately two inches deeper than the common varieties.

How to grow peonies

  • You don’t need to fertilize if you have fertile soil that has been amended with compost.
  • Do not overwater. When peonies are first planted, they need to be watered thoroughly. However, they do not like being soggy or subject to constant spraying from an automatic sprinkler system. Peonies that are established shouldn’t require additional watering unless they’re located in a sandy area or dry region of the country.
  • Peonies don’t like being crowded. They need airflow and space. You can move your peony around or divide it into smaller plants if this is a problem.

How to Divide Peonies

  • It is easiest to move, share, or swap peonies by dividing them in the fall. This usually happens between late August and late Oktober.
  • To separate the peony plant from the rest, use a sharp spade and dig up a portion of it. If it is more difficult, you can dig the whole plant up.
  • Take care to remove any soil from the roots.
  • You can use your hands or the spade for separating the plant into smaller sections each with three to six eyes.

Let your peony flourish and not need to be divided.

How to Support Flopping Peonies

Common peonies are known for their large flowers and soft stems. They can become prone to falling over in full bloom especially if spring rains add weight to the top-heavy blossoms. There are many ways to keep them upright. You can use low fencing to create a border of peonies, or metal plant supports that you can gently push into the soil as the plants are still growing.

Itoh peonies are strong and do not require staking.

How to prepare peonies for winter

To protect against extreme weather conditions in the winter, cut peony stems and cover them with mulch. A warm spell in the spring could cause your peony plant to bloom too early, and then get frozen. When spring frost is over, loosen and lighten the mulch.

When will the Peonies Bloom?

Peonies usually bloom for one week between late May and June. Plant a mixture of late-, mid-, and early-spring bloomers to keep the colors vibrant.

Are Ants Good for Peonies or Harmful?

  • Peony blossoms and buds may be a tempting place for ants to feast on the sweet nectar. The sweetest scents attract ants the most.
  • The flowers are not damaged by ants. However, they don’t cause the flowers to unfurl as many people believe.
  • Fresh-cut flowers can be handled gently.

Are Spent Blooms to be Cut?

Yes. Yes. They can be cut below the bud, or as far as the first joint of the leaf. This prevents the plant’s energy from being used to create seeds and allows it to save its energy for next year’s bloom.

Is there a peony disease to watch out for?

Peonies can become prone to airborne or soilborne botrytis (a fungal infection) if they are too crowded. Remove any peony stems that have mildew or black spots. The plant can be treated with a fungicide. Swenson Gardens recommends that you skip the chemical treatment and move the peony to another location with healthy soil.

Where can I find more peony advice?

The American Peony Society offers a wealth information online, including a list of public and national peony gardens. For local information and advice, you can also search for regional peony growers.