Plain and simple, herbaceous peonies are one of the loveliest flowers in existence. Who doesn’t love peonies? They’re a Summer favorite for droves of people across the world. You might think they’re impossible to grow and care for, but they actually require far less maintenance than many other plants and flowers.
Better yet – peonies are a perennial, which means that when you plant them, they’ll come back to your garden for more than two years. Actually, they’re famous for growing in the same spot for decades!
Peonies come in shades of white, pink, red, and even yellow, and they can be grown in Zones 3 to 8. They’re closely associated with weddings, which is why they’re often mistaken for being high-maintenance and expensive flower buds.
Luckily, once you learn how to care for peonies, you’ll be able to grow these beauties in your own garden and watch them bloom for many a Spring and Summer to come.
They do require a little patience after planting, but once they begin to bloom, they’ll work to beautify your garden without too much fuss.
Like many other flowers, peonies are available in different varieties, which all have slightly different blooming periods. If you’re curious about which varieties thrive in your hardiness zone, ask your local garden center for recommendations.
For example, some of the popular varieties include Fairy Princess Peony and Pink Hawaiian Coral Peony. Make sure you choose your favorite variety before planting!
WHEN To Plant Peonies
When it comes to peony care, the most important step is learning how and when to plant peonies properly. You have two options here: you can plant peony bare-root tubers OR you can plant a potted peony plant that’s already a few years old.
If you go the bare-root tuber option, you should aim to plant it in the Fall for best results. However, peonies require patience since they won’t bloom the first year and won’t produce ideal blooms until about the third year after they’re planted into the ground. That’s why it’s easier to buy a mature plant that’s at least a few years old. If you do this, then you can plant peonies in the Spring.
If you’re planting bare-roots in the Fall, make sure they contain healthy roots and have at least 3 healthy eye buds attached to the crown (just ask your local nursery for assistance if you have trouble picking them out).
Or, get your mature, potted peony plant ready for planting.
HOW TO PLANT PEONIES
Peonies are a full-sun perennial, so you’ll need to plant peonies in an area of your yard that gets 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. They will produce more impressive blooms if they get full sun. If you plant them in an area that gets too much shade, then you won’t get the gorgeous blooms you’re hoping for.
Let’s talk soil. Peonies prefer soil with a pH level of 6.5, so that’s what you should shoot for (you can test your soil yourself using a pH Meter). If your soil tests too acidic, simply add enough garden lime or calcitic lime to it to adjust the pH level.
Before planting your buds, you’ll need to work your soil with a garden fork and prepare the area so that the roots of your peonies have the best chance at growing. Peonies should be planted in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil – this is very important!
If the area in which you intend to plant your peonies is prone to water puddles, then this is NOT the ideal planting spot. Instead, choose an area of your yard that gets full sun and is less susceptible to collecting water puddles during rainfall.
Try to think back to rainy days – did a large puddle form in that vicinity? When you water, does the water travel away from the area after providing the soil with enough moisture or does it concentrate in that same area? Your answers to these questions will help you decide whether your peonies will get the well-drained soil they need to remain healthy.
Once you decide where your peonies will go, you’ll need to work some organic matter and a handful of granular fertilizer into the soil. To do this, dig a hole that’s about a foot deep, and toss organic compost and fertilizer into it, then toss a shovel’s worth of soil into the hole. Mix it all up using a garden fork. This will provide an ideal environment for your peonies.
Then, you’re going to plant each bare-root tuber no more than 1 – 2 inches deep, and 4 feet apart from each other. Always make sure that the buds are facing upwards.
TIP: Do not plant your peonies too deeply, or they won’t flower. Rule of thumb: Don’t plant peonies deeper than two and a half inches.
After planting, water the area generously to let the soil soak in as much moisture and nutrients as possible.
How to Care for Peonies in the Winter
Peonies actually enjoy cold Winter temperatures, but they do need some protection against extreme weather if you live in certain zones, like Zones 2 and 3. You can try layering a very thin layer of pine needles over the soil. I stress very thin layer because if you layer something heavy over your peony buds, they’ll think they’ve been planted too deeply and they won’t grow successfully.
Placing a thin layer of pine needles or thin bark may discourage the plant from trying to grow upwards into frosty weather. If the plant tries to peek our during this time, it could ruin its chances of creating beautiful foliage in the Spring. Once your peonies have lived in the same spot for more than a year, doing this will become unnecessary. *Make sure to remove the needles or bark at the beginning of Spring.
providing peonies with support
Peonies, especially as they start to bloom, can get very heavy and eventually topple over. Luckily, you can prevent this by providing your peonies with support via plant supports. You should aim to use plant supports as soon as your plant reaches a few inches tall – doing it before your peony plant begins to grow wildly will be nearly impossible. All you have to do is place the plant support over the plant, and into the ground until you feel that it is stable.
As your peonies begin to grow, they’ll grow up through the plant supports, which will keep your peonies steady, straight, and tall – it’s that simple!
Peonies have been known to grow in the wild without the help of fertilizer. Applying fertilizer to your peonies at home, however, can definitely benefit your plant, as long as you use the right kind of fertilizer and apply it at the appropriate time. If you’re going to fertilize your peony plant, do so once a year at the beginning of Spring. You can use organic, all-purpose fertilizer and apply a ring of it around the peony plant, a few inches away from the stem (or where the stem will be when it grows).
At the end of a full year, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the pruning needs of your peonies. Pruning peonies will help encourage healthy foliage growth and beautiful blooms in the years to come. Before Winter settles in, cut back your plant all the way to the ground.
Yes – ALL the way. You’ll have regrowth come next Spring, so don’t panic.
Grow Your Own Peonies
That about covers everything you need to know about planting and caring for your peonies. If the peony is your favorite flower, there’s no reason to put off growing them your garden. Why shouldn’t you enjoy these beauties every time you look into your yard during Spring and Summer?
They evoke elegance and grace, so take these few easy-to-implement tips and start growing your dream flower! Just remember to exercise a little patience at the beginning of this plant’s lifespan, and it’ll reward you tenfold for decades and decades to come!
If you’re looking for more low-maintenance plants, check out this list of gorgeous perennials. If you’re looking for companion plants for your peonies, make sure to choose flowers that need full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
You can choose plants that will provide a beautiful contrast to the peony’s delicate blooms or a flower that can complement it with its similarities.