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Growing Peonies

Category Flowers
Growing Peonies
These hardy perennials come in a variety of colors and produce beautiful flowers year after year. This guide is about growing peonies.
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By 2 found this helpful
March 8, 2011

Peonies are a favorite of many gardeners. Their impressive, long-lasting blooms never fail to delight the senses, whether growing in the garden or displayed in bouquets. Not only are these perennials hardy and tough, but once established, peonies will bloom reliably for 20 years or more. Here are some tips for planting and growing them.
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Selection

Peonies bloom in late spring or early summer. By planting a mix of varieties and types, you can extend the blooming period by as much as two or three weeks.

Peonies can be divided into three main groups:

Double or Chinese peonies are the most popular type of peonies grown. They feature massive fragrant flowers (pink, red, or white) that resemble huge roses. Japanese peonies, a related species, have single flowers with distinctive centers featuring a puff of short, modified petals.

Early hybrid peonies have huge flowers (up to 8 inches across) and bloom a week or two earlier than the Chinese peonies.

Fernleaf peonies are rare and very unique looking. They have deep crimson flower atop fine, fern-like foliage.

Varieties with large, heavy flowers (especially doubles) usually need staking. Support should be in place before the leaves unfurl. Single flower types don't capture and hold as much water and are less prone to flopping over from heavy spring rains.

Planting and Transplanting

When: Autumn is the best time to plant peonies, whether they are newly purchased or simply being moved. Plant them at least six weeks before the ground is expected to freeze in your area. Make sure new plants have plenty of time to make new roots before growth stops for the winter.

Where: Peonies are "long-haul" plants. They perform best after being in the same place for a long period of time. Select a site where they can grow and remain undisturbed for years to come.

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Choose a location where peonies will receive at least 6 full hours of sun each day. Shadier locations will result in less blooms and weaker stems. Peonies do not tolerate standing water, so make sure the site provides ample drainage. Space multiple plants at least 36 inches apart.

How: If you're digging up and dividing a clump, start by cutting off and discarding the spent foliage. Dig up the roots carefully and gently remove any loose dirt. Cut the clump into sections, leaving at least three to five eyes and a good portion of root system on each one.

Dig planting holes roughly twice as deep and wide as the peony roots. Prepare the soil by working a little compost, peat moss, or well-rotted manure in with the soil you remove. Add in a handful of bone meal or green sand as a source of potassium to stimulate strong root growth and flower set.

Replace some of this soil mix and set the plant in on top, making sure the budlike eyes are no more than 1 to 2 inches below the ground. Deeper planting will result in failure to bloom.

Back fill gently (don't tamp the soil around the plants). Water in, then top off with additional soil if necessary.

Fertilizing

In the spring (April/May) peonies will appreciate a generous application of compost and a shot of a low nitrogen organic fertilizer (5-10-5 or 5-10-10). Feed them again when their buds reach the size of peas.

Deadheading

To keep peonies looking their best, deadhead individual stems right after blooms fade. This puts the plant's energy back into growing roots and food storage instead of wasting energy on trying to produce seeds.

When cutting flowers for arrangements, leave at least 3 leaves below where the stem is cut to help produce food for development of next year's blooms.

Disbudding

Like many plants, peonies will make larger flowers if forced to make fewer of them. Disbudding is a technique commonly applied to peonies and other flowers which have clusters of buds on each stem. This technique is often used by growers who show peonies in flower exhibitions.

Peonies have several buds, some primary (lead buds) and some secondary (smaller buds branching off from the lead buds). A large number of secondary buds require the plant to put lots of energy into growing a large number of (smaller) flowers. By removing several of the secondary buds, the plant puts the same amount of energy into fewer (bigger) flowers.

Why the Ants?

Have you ever been told that ants are necessary to open peony buds? Not true. Peony buds will open with or without ants, but the two do share a special relationship.

Peonies have tiny, specialized tissues (nectaries) at the edge of their bud scales that secrete nectar. These microscopic nectaries may go unnoticed by humans, but not by ants. This highly nutritious blend of sugars, proteins, and amino acids makes an ideal meal, and is the reason ants are always seen crawling over peony buds.

In exchange for the nectar, ants offer peonies a valuable service-protection. Any bud-eating pests that arrive on the peonies are quickly attacked and discarded.

Fall Care

After the first frost, stems on mature peonies can be cut off at ground level. If there was any sign of leaf spot of other disease problems during the season, the foliage should be placed in the garbage or burned, and not added to the compost pile.

After the ground is frozen 3 or 4 inches down, add a protective layer of mulch to protect plants from frost heave in the winter.

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Comment Was this helpful? 2

June 29, 20170 found this helpful

Peonies are native throughout the northern hemisphere. Their large showy flowers are sometimes quite fragrant and add interest to a sunny garden location. This page contains peony photos.

A pink peony bloom.

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May 17, 20170 found this helpful

The reasons that your peonies are not blooming include, planting too deeply or dividing too late in the previous summer. This is a guide about peony bushes not blooming.

Peony Shoots

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By 0 found this helpful
March 15, 2006
Botanical Name: Paeonia
Life Cycle: perennial
Planting Time: spring or fall
Height: 18" to 36"
Exposure: full sun or very light shade
Soil: average to rich, well-drained soil
Hardiness: zones 2-8 depending on variety (most require a long chilling period)
Bloom Time: late spring to early summer
Flower: variety of colors including shades of red, pink, white, pale yellow and combinations; very fragrant flowers; single or double flowers
Foliage: dark green leaves
Propagation: division
Suggested Use: fragrance gardens, beds, cut flowers
Growing Hints: Purchase potted peonies from garden center in the spring or order bare-root plants by mail for fall planting. Plants should be set in an area providing some protection from wind to keep their delicate leaves from ripping. Peonies will grow about as wide as they are tall so give them plenty of room. Set them in holes big enough to accommodate the roots along with some compost. The root eyes (reddish buds on top of roots) should be placed so they are about two inches below the surface of the soil. If peonies are planted too deep they will not bloom the first season. Water regularly the first season to help the plant establish roots. When peonies reach a height of 6 to 12 inches, support them by creating a corral using stakes and string or purchase a peony hoop. Remove spent flowers to prolong blooming period. Crowns should be mulched in harsh winter zones. Warmer zones should remove any mulch that was applied during the spring and summer to allow plants to chill over winter.
Interesting Facts: Some peonies secrete a nectar to attract ants, which in turn help them open their dense double flower heads. Once open, the ants disappear.
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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
May 31, 2009

How can I grow Peonies without paying high prices?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By pattitwins from Roanoke, VA

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 31, 20090 found this helpful

Find somebody who's willing to share. When they divide their plants get a few shoots.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 5, 20090 found this helpful

They are easy to transplant, although I don't know which is the best season to divide Peonies. I would think any season, but especially early spring and late fall for the best success. Just find someone who will divide theirs and share. Well established plants will have lots of new plants under and around the tall plants. You can take these or take your spade and cut right into the parent plant.

After I got mine from a friend several years ago, they did not produce for the first year or two, but that's okay, now I have so many to enjoy. They were white for many years, but this year I have some that are a light pink. Something I have noticed is that every year when my Peonies are blooming, we have rain and the rain soon washes the petals off. I try to enjoy the cuttings before the rain does this. This year we have had the rain but mine bloomed later so the rain hasn't gotten them yet but I expect it to as the blooms mature.

I shared some of mine this year for the first time through yahoo's group FWgardenclub. Search yahoo groups for garden clubs in your area, and you can find and share just about anything at no cost.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
June 18, 2012

My peonies stopped blooming after I moved to another house, ten years ago. They just grow, but no more blooms.

By Joanne

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
July 8, 20120 found this helpful

Check out much sun they get. When some trees that wasn't very big at my place grew up. They blocked my peonies and thus we no longer got the pretty blooms we used to; in fact the last couple of years there wasn't a single bloom. We have to move them at the end of the year to a place that will get full or at least several hours of sun. I think they need at least 8 hours, but not sure. I always before had them in full sun or planted under a red bud tree. It was always thin so they got lots of sun.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

May 28, 20120 found this helpful

How long will they bloom before dying?

By Lois

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 29, 20120 found this helpful

As a whole peonies don't last very long, probably just a few weeks. They usually bloom around Memorial Day. The whole plant doesn't die, just the blooms. When the blooms are done, you can cut the dried up part off and still have nice looking foliage. They used to be used a lot on graves for Memorial Day. Before cemeteries became so fussy people used to plant peonies, iris, etc right on the graves. I have even seen lilac bushes planted on the graves.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

April 12, 20130 found this helpful

My peony broke off while I was cleaning the leaves. It does have roots. Can I replant in dirt or water? I hate to throw it away. Thank you.

By AC

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

June 11, 20120 found this helpful

Can I cut my peonies off before they dry up?

By Donna S.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
October 31, 2010

Does anyone in Phoenix grow peonies, rhubarb, or lilacs successfully? If so, how?
Thank you.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

By Brenda from Phoenix, AZ

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
March 27, 2010

Can I successfully grow peonies in my zone? Thanks.

Hardiness Zone: 8b

By Donna from Sumrall, MS

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

By 0 found this helpful
March 2, 2010

My peonies have been lovely for several years, but last year the leaves started to turn black and the entire bush just produced a few small blooms. What do I do? Can they be saved?

Hardiness Zone: 7b

By Johanna from Bowie, MD

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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