The peony has the fattest, most delicious petals and rich green foliage, making it outrageously attractive when it is in bloom. From spring to summer, savor stunning floral displays. Learn how to care for, grow, and plant peony.
Peonies are a perennial that will steal your breath away every year. The plants may even outlive you—some have been reported to survive for at least a century.
When Is Peony Season? When Do Peonies Bloom?
Depending on your location and the kind you are planting, peonies bloom from late spring to early summer.
You may extend the peony season across several weeks and take use of those magnificent blossoms for as long as possible thanks to the abundance of nurseries that provide early, midseason, and late blooming types.
Peonies may thrive as far south as Zones 7 and 8, and they are hardy to Zone 3. The key to success in the majority of the United States is to provide full light and well-drained soil. Peonies even enjoy the winter’s coldness because it helps their buds grow.
Types of Peony Flowers
You can pick from six different varieties of peony flowers: anemone, single, Japanese, semi-double, double, and bomb. The odors of different plants also differ; some, like “Festiva Maxima” and “Duchesse de Nemours,” have seductive rose-like aromas, while others have a lemony scent or none at all.
Where to Plant Peonies
When planted as a low hedge or along sidewalks, peonies make excellent sentinels. As majestic and dignified as any flowering shrub, the peony’s bushy cluster of attractive glossy green leaves lasts all summer before turning purplish-red or gold in the fall.
Peonies work nicely with irises and roses in mixed borders and blossom alongside columbines, baptisias, and veronicas. Plant pink peonies with blue Nepeta or violets, then surround white peonies with yellow irises and a froth of forget-me-nots.
Peonies are not overly picky, but you should pick your place carefully because they dislike disruption and do not transplant well.
Although they can survive in partial shade, peonies like full sun, and they flower at their best in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
Because of its huge flowers, peonies can become top-heavy in severe winds. Therefore, provide shelter. (If necessary, stakes can be used to hold them up.) Planting too close to trees or bushes will cause peony to compete with them for nutrients, sunlight, and moisture.
Grow peony in rich, wet, humus-rich soil that is deep, fertile, and well-draining. pH in the soil should be neutral.
When to Plant Peonies
As long as they are planted correctly and become established, peony plants require minimal upkeep. However, keep in mind that they do not adapt well to transplanting, so you should consider this when choosing your planting location.
- Plant peony in the fall: in the majority of the United States, in late September or early October, and even later in the fall in Zones 7 and 8. Your planting zone can be found here.
- If you need to move an established plant, the fall is the ideal season because the plant will be dormant.
- About six weeks before the ground freezes, peonies should be planted.
- While planting peonies in the spring is absolutely a possibility, the results aren’t always favorable. Experts agree: they generally lag about a year behind those planted in the fall.
How to Plant Peonies
- Peonies are typically offered as divisions of a 3- or 4-year-old plant, bare-root tubers with 3 to 5 eyes (buds).
- Peonies should be placed 3 to 4 feet apart to allow for enough air circulation. The development of disease can be facilitated by stagnant, damp air.
- In a sunny area, dig a generously sized hole that is about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. The inclusion of organic matter in the planting hole will improve the soil. Add additional compost to the soil to improve it if it’s sandy or heavy. Add about a cup of bonemeal to the ground. Find out more about soil improvements and getting the soil ready for planting.
- The roots should be positioned in the hole just 2 inches below the soil’s surface, with the root’s eyes facing upward on top of a mound of soil. Avoid planting too deeply! Choose early-blooming species, put them approximately 1 inch deep, and provide some shade in southern states.
- Backfill the hole after that, being careful to prevent soil settlement and a 2-inch root burying. Gently tamp the ground.
- Plant a container-grown peony no deeper than it was when it was in the pot.
- When planting, give everything plenty of water.
How to Care for Peonies
Young peony take time to develop, just like children. In order to establish themselves, blossom, and flourish, they typically require a few years. They eventually leave home on their own, fully grown and adjusted… No, that’s just kids, I suppose.
Peonies benefit from gentle neglect. They don’t require digging and dividing every few years like the majority of perennials do.
- Don’t use any fertilizer. Before planting, till the soil thoroughly while adding compost and a small amount of fertilizer.
- Early summer, after the peonies have flowered and you have deadheaded the blooms, is the ideal time to apply fertilizer (such as bonemeal, compost, or well-rotted manure) to a soil that is deficient in nutrients. Keep fertilizing to a few years at most.
- assist the stems Peonies’ stems, which occasionally are not strong enough to hold their enormous blossoms, are the only part of their structure that may be considered weak. Think of structures that allow the plant to grow through the middle of the support, like three-legged metal peony rings or wire tomato cages.
- Peony blossoms should be deadheaded as soon as they start to fade, cutting to a sturdy leaf so that the stem doesn’t protrude through the foliage. To prevent any infections from overwintering, trim the foliage to the ground in the fall.
- Avoid covering peonies with mulch. For the first winter following planting, you can VERY LOOSELY mulch with pine needles or shredded bark when the winters are bitterly cold. In the spring, get rid of the mulch.
Peonies bloom between late spring and early summer, but by planting a variety of cultivars, you may arrange your garden for a succession of blooms from mid-May to late June. Here are a few options:
- ‘Early Scout’ has red solitary flowers that open incredibly early.
- “Firelight”: very early-blooming, single, pale-pink flowers
- ‘Karl Rosenfield’: double, midseason bloomer with substantial crimson blooms
When should peony be planted?
- Keep plants neat by deadheading and prune as needed (herbaceous only).
- When peonies become congested and produce fewer blooms, divide the plants.
- When the blossoms feel like soft marshmallows, cut the stems for bouquets. Water should contain Miracle-Gro for Fresh Cut Flowers.
When the peonies blossom, you can finally start to feel the arrival of summer. Around Memorial Day, when spring bulb flowers are starting to fade and summer blooms are beginning to emerge, these stunning perennials bloom profusely. Peonies are resistant to deer and rabbits, which is useful for gardeners who frequently experience issues with animals eating their plants. Peonies are frequently seen blooming despite years of neglect if you drive through old cemeteries or abandoned farmsteads. That is because to how simple peony are to grow!
How to Choose Peonies
Peonies come in four different varieties. They are forest peonies, tree peonies, herbaceous peonies, and intersectional peonies, in the order of blooming time. Herbaceous peonies, which thrive in zones 3–7, and tree peonies, which flourish in zones 3–9, are the two most popular varieties. Herbaceous plants often reach heights of two to three feet and spreads of two to four feet. With some types reaching heights of 7 feet, tree peony are more closely related to tiny shrubs. The type of peony you plant will depend on where you live and the style you’re going for because all peonies require similar maintenance. The focus of this paper will be on tree and herbaceous peony.
Fall is the ideal season to plant peonies. This is often when peonies purchased from a catalog will be delivered. It’s okay to plant peonies when you see them flowering and for sale in containers in the spring.
Peonies require at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day, though in zones 8 and 9, some shade from the sweltering afternoon sun is beneficial. Additionally, picking a location with sufficient air circulation is crucial to avoiding fungal illnesses.
In somewhat damp, well-drained soil, peonies thrive. Dig a hole, take the plant from the pot, and plant container-grown herbaceous peonies (the kind you buy in pots) so that the top of the root ball is level with the earth (any deeper and the peonies will not bloom). Fill up the area surrounding the plant by combining the discarded soil with an equal amount of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers.
Before planting bare root herbaceous peonies, give them a brief dip in a basin of water to rehydrate them. Create a planting hole that is big enough to fit the roots, mix the soil as previously mentioned, and place a mound of the blended soil in the middle of the planting hole. Place the roots atop the mound and let them fan out and descend. Using the remaining blended soil, fill in the remaining portion of the hole, making sure that the “No more than 1 to 2 inches of soil should be present around the plant’s eyes (or growth buds) in order for it to bloom.
Deeper planting is required for tree peony. Unless they are grafted, peonies should be planted in the same soil combination as above, 2 to 4 inches deep at the crown (where the roots meet the stem). Check the label to see if the plant has been grafted, and then plant it such that the “The plant’s graft union, where the grafted top and rootstock are united, is located 4 to 6 inches below the soil line.
How to Stake Peonies
Peony stems are prone to toppling over after it rains, and the blossoms can become big and heavy. For herbaceous peonies, the best approach is to cover each plant in a peony cage in the spring, before the leaves begin to sprout (picture metal supports with rings for the flowers to grow up through). This is far more effective than attempting to hold each flower stalk separately, and it also looks nicer than wrapping the entire plant in string and cinching it in like a belt.
One stake can be used to stake tree peonies. Place the stake next to the stem in the ground, and then use a piece of twine to loosely secure the plant to the stake.
How to Water Peonies
When planting, give everything plenty of water. When the spring foliage begins to emerge and the flower buds start to show, give the plants another drink. Although peonies do not have a thirst, they will benefit from watering during dry spells for a year following the first planting.
How to Feed Peonies
Your peony will benefit from a powerful combination of care that includes excellent soil and the ideal plant food. Give peonies the nutrition they require by feeding them Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Rose & Bloom Plant Food in addition to the soil improvements indicated above for stunning color and more flowers than unfed plants. Peonies should be fed twice a year: the first time, right after they emerge in the spring (when the new shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall but before the flower buds are pea-sized), and the second time, in the middle of the growing season (about three months after the first feeding), to help them develop sturdy roots before the arrival of winter. Make sure you adhere to label instructions.
How to Help Prevent Problems with Peonies
Although mostly fuss-free, peonies occasionally experience fungal issues. Browning and failure to open flower buds are symptoms of botrytis. Brown patches on leaves are a symptom of some fungus illnesses. Infected blooms and leaves should be simply pruned off and disposed of (do not compost) in order to control these problems. Additionally, keep the plants neat, remove old foliage at the end of the season, and deadhead spent blooms. Peony blooms occasionally draw ants, but they won’t hurt the plants, so you can ignore them. (Contrary to popular belief, peonies do not require ants to blossom.)
How to Prune Peonies
Cut back each flower stalk on herbaceous peonies once all of the blooms have faded to just above a leaf, low enough so that the stem doesn’t protrude above the rest of the leaves. Unruly tree peony can be trimmed either in the spring or the fall (right before plants go dormant). However, any stems you trim back in the fall will not blossom the following spring (as you will be cutting off the flower buds). After blossoming in the spring, you can prune. Anytime you choose to prune, be careful not to take more than one-third of the plant with you.
How to Divide Peonies
It is ideal to leave tree peony alone (undivided) so they can flourish for many generations in the garden. If the clumps have become too large or the flowering has slowed, herbaceous peonies can be divided. Herbaceous peonies can be divided by digging up the entire clump and rinsing it off to reveal the plant’s numerous roots and eyes (or buds). Leave as least one large root and three to four eyes per clump after cutting the plant apart with clean, sharp pruners. Replant, adhering to the bare root peony planting directions above. The plants might or might not flower the first year after dividing, so keep that in mind.
How to Cut Peonies for Bouquets
Timing is crucial. Buds should feel roughly as firm as a soft marshmallow when squeezed, which is known as the “soft marshmallow stage.” Examining the bud’s coloration is another method for determining when to cut. The majority of the bud’s exterior should remain green, but you should be able to make out approximately half an inch of the flower’s vibrant petals. Although cutting the flowers at this point lessens the possibility of bringing ants inside with them, it is still advisable to inspect the flowers before bringing them inside. Plants should open up when stems are placed in a vase of water. For longer-lasting blooms, change the water every few days and apply Miracle-Gro for Fresh Cut Flowers (vs. water only).
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Is it possible to grow peony close to House?
Is it true that ants are required to open peonies, or is this just an urban legend? Does anyone have a firm response to this? There is a lot of debate on the internet.
According to my own observations, you do require the ants to open the bud, at least until a few petals are visible. Ants are drawn to peony whether or not they are required. So I advise setting your peonies outside of the building. You will get an infestation if your plants are too close together. Not that I have any firsthand knowledge or anything…
Peonies aren’t particularly appealing to deer and rabbits, since we’re on the subject of animals. If those pests are a concern for you, plant without worrying about them getting devoured.