Tips & Growing Intructions: Peonies
At Breck's, we believe all peonies are special. They are a garden classic perennial that can last a lifetime. Peonies are easy to grow and maintain with little care. They bloom in late spring or early in summer, delighting all that behold with their wondrous floral display. Peony blooms are a staple to spring time are a popular cut flower. Some peonies are known for their wonderful fragrance but not all peonies offer this wonderful scent. Be sure to know each peony characteristics before you choose yours!
Peony Soil Type:
Peony Plants relish slightly acidic soils (pH 6.5 to 7.0) with good drainage. Apply Breck's bulb food for bulbs and perennials in fall and spring to feed your plants to encourage many blooms. Addition of organic matter to the soil is always useful and advisable.
Peony Light Requirements:
Peonies tend to do well in both full and partial sun, becoming ideal candidates for borders, walkways, hedges and some of those unsightly, desperately in need for a facelift spots of the garden. Make sure your spot gets 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. For instance morning sun and afternoon shade. Or you may plant peonies in full sun.
When to Plant Peonies:
Fall is the ideal time of the year for planting peonies however, you may plant peonies in the spring as well. Newly planted bare root peonies will establish new feeder roots when you plant them in the Fall. The winter freezing temperatures will not affect the roots, peonies like the cold. Peonies planted in the fall will establish much faster than spring planted ones.
How to Plant Peonies
Peonies should be spaced 3-4 feet apart in the garden. Set peony roots into the soil at a depth of 1 inch, making sure the eyes are facing the skies.
Pack the soil firmly around the roots and water well. Check on the plants regularly as they're developing and irrigate whenever the soil appears to be drying up.
You can enjoy your peony plants in the same spot for decades, but you can move or divide them if necessary. Digging up peonies is best done in the fall after the foliage begins to die back in fall or in early spring. Lever the peony plant out of the ground with a fork or spade. Shake the plants gently to remove the soil from the roots. Locate the buds (eyes) on the roots and cut apart the clump with a sharp knife or sharp spade with each section containing two to five buds. When planting the divisions, the eyes of the root should be planted facing upward, no more than 0.5- 1" below the surface of the soil.
For best results, peonies should be fed in spring, and again halfway through the growing season. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer (like our 5-10-5 Food for Bulbs and Perennials fertilizer). Do the first feeding when the stems are about 2 - 3" high. Peonies that are over fertilized often develop poorly and produce few blooms. A fertilizer with too much nitrogen is particularly harmful. Peonies require extra potassium (the 'P' in the fertilizer contents) for stem strength and disease resistance.
Peonies may not bloom the first spring after planting. It may take a year for them to settle in. By their third spring they are maturing and producing an abundance of flowers.
Peony Disease and Pests
Peonies are among the toughest perennials and exhibit excellent disease resistance. The most serious peony disease is Botrytis or grey mold, which most often occurs during cold, wet springs. Remove and destroy all affected stems and foliage immediately and disinfect the pruning shears after use. To avoid this fungal disease, good air circulation around your plants and watering early in the day will help. As buds form on peonies the ants will arrive. While it maybe a nuisance ants will not harm your peonies. Peonies provide food or nectar for the ants. It is not true that ants help peonies bloom. When cutting peonies, hold them upside down and shake off the ants or gently rinse them with water before you bring in your home.
Peony Flower Types
Double Flowering Peonies- Consists mostly of petals, almost no stamens. Etched Salmon peony is a good example of double flowering peony.
Semi-double Flowering Peonies- Five or more outer guard petals with a center of smaller inner petals. Coral Sunset Peony is a good example of a semi-double peony.
Bomb Peony- The stamens of this flower are completely transformed into inner petals. These inner petals are narrower than the outer guard petals so that the flower looks like a sculpted ball of ice cream on a shallow bowl. Angel Cheeks peony is a good example of bomb peony.
Anemone Peony- The stamens of this flower are transformed into petaloids - small, narrow petals the center of the flower - surrounded by the outer guard petals. Primevere Peony is considered an anemone peony.
Japanese Peony- Five or more guard petals arranged around a large center filled with carpels and stamens. Stamens are transformed into staminodes which are similar to stamens in form and color but have a lumpy texture and thicker tissue that prevents them from shedding pollen. White Cap Peony is a Japanese peony.
Single Flowering Peony- Five or more guard petals arranged around the carpels and pollen-bearing stamens. Dancing Butterflies Peony is a single flowering peony.
What is an Itoh Peony?
An Itoh Peony (or Intersectional Peony) is a cross between herbaceous and Tree Peonies. It has a woody base and stems that are more compact and sturdier than bush (herbaceous) peonies. The large, mostly semi-double flowers sit right on top of the foliage. They usually bloom after the bush peonies. Bartzella Itoh Peony is a favourite among many gardeners for its large yellow blooms.
Peony Cut Flowers
Harvest peony flowers for bouquets when the flower buds show the first signs of opening up. If they're still as hard and round as a bullet they will not open fully. Cut the stems at an angle. Fill the vase with fresh, cold water.
Click here for Peony Planting Guide