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Peony Growing Tips

Peony division illustration

Peonies are perennial garden classics, adored the world over for their magnificent blossoms and heavenly fragrance. They are incredibly long-lived plants, some have been known to live 100 years! Superb as cut flowers peonies have no rivals. Alone or in mixed bouquets, they have an ethereal beauty and an unforgettable perfume. Peonies are excellent perennial plants that are easy to grow as they can be left alone and never need to be divided.

Peony Planting & Care

Peonies thrive in full sun to part shade locations. Although Peonies prefer a sunny location, giving them a break from the hot afternoon sun will prolong their beautiful flowers.

Plant Peonies in a loose, rich soil. Adding a shovelful or two of compost, and a handful or so of bone meal when planting will give you best results. They must be planted at the correct depth to ensure flowering. A Peony’s eyes should be 1 1/2″ – 2″ below soil level.

Peonies benefit from deep soakings, and mulch plants to conserve water and keep weeds down.

Fertilizer is not necessary for peonies to thrive. Every other year or so, a light application of fertilizer may be applied in early summer, after peonies have bloomed. They prefer fertilizer low in nitrogen.

You’ll notice Peonies begin to go dormant in late summer into fall. At this time, cut back their foliage to the ground.

Although Peonies may get an occasional bug or disease problem, they normally do not need to be treated. Serious pest and disease problems can be treated with chemical remedies.

While Peonies may be planted in spring or fall, they do best with fall plantings. Fall planted peonies will settle in faster and flower sooner. Spring planted peonies are known to mature and bloom about a year behind those in the fall. In St. Louis, Missouri, the ideal time to plant peonies is in September and October, giving the plants at least 6 weeks to establish before hard freezes.

Abby lapides peoniesDividing Peonies

Peonies seldom need dividing and prefer to be left alone, but they can be divided to rejuvenate overcrowded plants or to make new divisions. Fall is the best time to divide peonies. Dig around plants carefully, trying not to break off any roots and wash off the root ball. You will see their eyes, about the size of an average knuckle, on the crown. Take a sharp knife and cut root clump into sections that have three or more eyes each, making sure each section has a fair amount of roots. Remove broken roots. These divisions may bloom the following spring, but sometimes it may take as long as three or four years before their roots will produce flowers.

Top Reasons Peonies Don’t Flower

  1. They are planted too shallow or too deep.
  2. They are getting too much nitrogen.
  3. They are over or undernourished. Peonies thrive with little care and limited amounts of fertilizer.
  4. The buds were killed by a late hard frost, disease, or excessive heat. 
  5. Plants are not getting enough sun.
  6. The plants are too immature.
  7. The clumps are too large or overcrowded. Plants prefer to be divided in fall.
  8. They have been moved or divided too often.
  9. The plants were cut back too early before the foliage turned brown in the fall.
  10. The soil is too wet or too dry. Peonies require well-drained soil. They benefit from deep waterings.
  11. Buds are infected with thrips.

 

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