Peonies have many great qualities that make them a springtime favorite – peonies are perennial, very fragrant, produce large blooms, are long-lasting cut flowers, low-maintenance, make ideal green foliage plants throughout the summer, and are easy to divide and transplant.
It’s hard to find anything negative about this spring beauty so if you have any outdoor planting space, use this guide to plant and grow peonies. You won’t regret it.
Choosing the right location
Peonies grow best in a sunny location and need at least 6-hours of sunlight every day. Soil that drains well is also vital to the health of peonies as soggy soil will cause the underground tubers to rot.
If you have established peonies that used to produce blooms but no longer bloom, it could be a lack of sunlight. Observe to see how much sunlight the plants are receiving every day. A tree or shrub may have grown up beside the plants and has now reached maturity and be blocking the sun from reaching them. If that’s the case, prune the tree or shrub or move the peonies to a sunnier location.
Incorporate 2-inches of compost into the soil before planting to increase fertility and improve drainage. Peonies are started from tubers.
Dig planting holes 2-inches deep and 18-inches apart. ]A tuber should only be planted 2-inches deep, if it’s planted deeper it will grow into a green shrub but not produce blooms.
One tuber will produce several stems and each year the tuber will multiply and quickly fill in the 18-inch space between plants. The tubers will need to be divided every 3-5 years.
You must be patient with peonies. It takes at least 2-3 years for a newly planted or transplanted peony to bloom. Some peony varieties will take 7-years to bloom after planting or transplanting.
The plants will emerge from the soil in very early spring and look nothing like a peony. The leaves and stems will be red and furled into a tight coil. Each day the red furl will loosen and the plant will take on a familiar shape and green color. The fragrant blooms will appear in mid-spring and last for about a month.
Peonies are typically in full bloom when the heavy spring rains arrive and the downpours often beat the blooms off of the plants. The plants also like to sprawl out on the ground spring when they’re heavy with blooms and a plant support ring will help to keep the weak stems upright. Place a plant support ring (a.k.a peony ring) on top of each plant as soon as the new growth emerges from the soil. The new growth will grow up through the support ring and provide strength to the weak peony stems during a spring rain and bloom weight.
Caring for your peonies
Peonies are very heavy feeders and will be fed before and after bloom time. The compost added to soil at planting time is sufficient food for the first year. The following spring applies a 2-inch layer of compost in a circle 6-inches away from the crown of the peony plant as soon as it emerges from the soil.
When the plant is 8-inches tall give it a fertile drink with water-soluble plant food. Follow that feeding with another 2-inch layer of compost at the end of the bloom cycle to provide food for the tuber.
Water plants only during times of drought.
Peonies make excellent long-lasting cut flowers, however, if you cut too many blooms off the same plant, it will reduce next years’ blooms. Don’t cut more than half of the blooms off the same plant and don’t remove any leafy stems.