by Jennifer Poindexter
When we first moved to our farm, the gentleman who lived here before us had planted a little bit of everything around the land.
At the edge of our driveway sat a bush with green foliage, and I wasn’t sure what it was initially. Our first spring, I realized it was going to be one of my new favorite plants.
It was a large peony. This bush produced a gorgeous splash of color that I could see from my kitchen window, and it made lovely flower arrangements. It also produced a sweet scent as well.
If you’d like to have a plant in your landscaping that makes you smile from the inside out every time you see or smell it, you might be interested in peonies. Here’s how you can grow your own:
Growing Conditions for Peonies
Peonies share the same typical growing conditions as most other plants. They need full sun where they’ll receive an average of eight hours of sunlight a day.
They also need well-draining soil to keep their roots healthy. Outside of these basic needs, there are only a few other things you must know to ensure peonies are set-up for success.
To begin, they bloom in the spring and summer months. Be sure you really like where you plant them because these flowers don’t handle transplanting well, so they’ll need to be left where you initially plant.
Also, make sure you’re certain about where you plant them because they won’t go anywhere anytime soon. These are perennial flowers in planting zones three through eight. They also live to be 100 or more years old!
It’s a good idea to plant a variety of peonies because their bloom schedules will vary. This will ensure you have an extended bloom schedule.
Plus, different varieties carry different scents. Therefore, you may have some which smell like roses, others which smell of lemon, and some which have no fragrance at all.
If you live in a colder planting zone, don’t worry. Peonies are a great fit for you because they actually like the cold weather. It helps their budding process.
Finally, if you don’t have a proper inground space to grow peonies, don’t fret. They can also handle being grown in containers. This will allow you to control the soil surrounding the plant as well as their lighting needs. You can move the container around, as needed, to ensure adequate sunlight.
Hopefully, this information will help you to feel more confident about growing peonies while adding some charm to your landscape for the foreseeable future.
How to Plant Peonies
Peonies are basic when it comes to planting. They are usually planted in tuber form, unless you buy larger plants from a nursery.
Either way, ensure you pick an adequate grow space. If, for some reason, you don’t have a proper place to plant peonies in the ground, don’t wing it. Instead, buy a large enough planter that provides adequate space for the peony to grow, and designate this as your grow area.
If you do have adequate inground space, place the plant or tuber in a hole that’s a minimum of two feet wide and deep. Ensure each plant has a minimum of four feet between them.
Peonies will grow into a bush-like form. Therefore, if they are planted too closely together, airflow issues will develop and welcome disease.
Also make sure the soil is light and fluffy for draining purposes. If not, add compost to the soil until it has the right consistency.
You don’t want your peonies to sit in water constantly. Once the soil consistency is right, cover the tuber or plant’s roots with the soil and water your newly planted peony.
Caring for Peonies
Peonies are an easy plant to care for. They require a few basic needs be met and outside of that, they bloom beautifully on their own.
Let’s start with a few troubleshooting techniques when it comes to this type of plant. Peonies are a perennial, but they shouldn’t be treated as other perennials.
Most perennial plants require division every so many years. Peonies don’t, so go ahead and take that off your to-do list.
The next thing many gardeners wonder is, “Why aren’t my peonies blooming?” Peonies take approximately three years to bloom after planting. Be patient, and if the growing conditions are adequate, they should bloom in their own time.
As far as actually caring for the peonies, gardeners should take fertilizing, staking, deadheading, and mulching into consideration.
Peonies don’t need to be fertilized if the soil is nutrient-dense. However, if your peonies seem to be struggling, add a dose of fertilizer to them one time every three to four years. Yes, I said years!
Next, peonies will need to be staked. Their blooms are so large, it can make them top heavy. Therefore, help your plants out, and avoid broken stems, by placing a tomato cage or a stake around your plant.
Deadheading will help remove old, spent blooms on your peony plant and encourage new blooms. This will not only keep your plant looking healthier, but it will add color to your landscape longer.
Finally, mulching is something you shouldn’t do with peonies. In some cases, when the plant is still young, it might benefit from some mulch to carry it through a brutal winter. This will all depend upon the age of the plant and the planting zone you’re in.
However, once the plant is established, don’t mulch. Even for plants which have been mulched to get through winter, be sure to remove the mulch in the spring to stop the plant from smothering.
A quick word of care to those who live in planting zones eight and nine. Peonies need full sunlight, but the heat in these planting zones can sometimes be too much during the hottest point in the day.
Plant peonies where they’ll receive morning sunlight but shade in the afternoon. I live in planting zone eight, and my peony is planted where the shadows of neighboring trees are cast over it during the hottest portions of the day to provide relief.
By providing proper care to your peonies, they should produce for you for years to come. Just be sure you understand what a peony needs and give it the adequate amount of neglect it seems to thrive under.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Peonies
Peonies do have a few threats gardeners should be aware of when choosing to raise them. The only two pests which seem to bother this variety of plant are Japanese Beetles and Nematodes.
Japanese Beetles can be treated with insecticides. Nematodes are a little trickier because some forms seem to feed off pesticides.
Therefore, the best method to treating nematodes is to heat soil and place it beneath the plant. For instance, heat a pot of soil in the oven at the same temperature you would if roasting vegetables.
Once heated, place it into the soil surrounding your peony plant. The heat will kill the nematodes in the soil.
The diseases gardeners should be aware of when raising peonies are stem rot, tip blight, and leaf blotch.
When dealing with stem rot, it means the soil is not draining well enough around the plant. Dig the plant up, using great care, and remove any infected roots.
Allow the plant to lay out in the sun for a while to dry out before transplanting into soil that is well-draining. This is the best chance of treating stem rot but is not guaranteed.
If you notice signs of tip blight, be sure to trim away the infected parts of the plant and apply a fungicide for treatment. Also, ensure there’s proper spacing between plants because sufficient air flow can help ward off certain diseases.
Leaf blotch is a fungus which can be treated with a fungicide. However, proper garden maintenance can ward it off as well.
Be sure to cut the stems of the peony plant back during the fall and clean up the ground around the plant to provide better air flow.
Being aware of the different pests and diseases which can hinder your peony’s growth is vital when gardening.
Now that you know what it takes to grow peonies of your own, give it a try. You might enjoy the experience and be pleased with the outcome of your hard work.
Your landscape will certainly be grateful for the added boost of beauty peonies can provide.