The Ultimate Peony Growing Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Planting, Nurturing, and Maintaining Peonies

If you’re looking to add some dramatic, fluffy pink blooms to your garden that not only look beautiful but also smell delightful, then peonies might be the perfect addition. These stunning flowers are low-maintenance, love basking in the sunlight and can thrive in a variety of climates for many years to come.

Collage of beautiful blooming peonies.

This guide is all about the wonderful world of peonies. We’ll cover everything from planting conditions to maintenance, and even give you information on different varieties of these beautiful blooms. But let’s start with the basics – what exactly are peonies?
We’ll also discuss the differences between herbaceous and tree peonies to give you a better understanding of these stunning plants. So whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, join us on this journey to discover all there is to know about peonies.

large pink peony blossoms

Peonies in full bloom are truly a sight to behold, with their large and vibrant petals that come in various colors. Belonging to the Paeonia genus in the Paeoniaceae family, these gorgeous flowers have about 25 to 40 different species, depending on who you ask. Most commonly, there are said to be 33 species.
Peonies can be categorized into two groups: herbaceous and tree peonies. Herbaceous peonies are the most common type and die back to the ground during winter. They usually bloom in late spring or early summer and require regular watering and well-draining soil for optimal growth and health.

peonies in bud and bloom

When we think of peonies, the herbaceous variety often comes to mind. These are the most popular and widely-known type of peonies. Herbaceous peonies can be planted in zones 3-8 and typically grow to a height of 2-3 feet. They bloom from late spring through early summer for a period of 7-10 days. Interestingly, many people plant peonies for their leaves as well as their flowers due to their attractive appearance throughout the growing season. Moving on to tree peonies, these are a bit different from their herbaceous counterparts.

pink tree peony blossoms

To add variety to your garden, consider planting tree peonies in addition to the herbaceous type. Tree peonies can thrive in zones 4 through 9 and come in larger sizes with longer blossoms. You won’t need to stake them as they can grow up to 3-7 feet tall. If you’re looking for later blooms, then tree peonies may suit you as they take longer to flower. Their leaves are also attractive and contribute to the overall beauty of a garden. Another category of peonies you might want to try is the intersectional peonies.

hybrid intersectional peony flowers

Hybrid intersectional peonies offer a unique and diverse option for those looking to extend their peony blossom season and color selection. These peonies are known as “Itoh hybrids” and are a combination of herbaceous and tree peonies. They are relatively small, reaching around 2.5 feet in height and 3 feet in width, but are known for producing a large number of blossoms. One of the great things about these hybrids is that they produce yellow flowers, which adds variety to the typical pinkish hues of peonies. Additionally, they are the latest blooming peonies, making them an excellent addition to herbaceous and tree peonies for extended bloom time. Overall, planting a combination of herbaceous, tree, and hybrid peonies can provide a wide range of colors and a long duration of total bloom time.

cutting red peony flowers

Peonies are not only stunning and popular flowers, but they also serve various purposes in gardens and landscapes. Depending on the type of peony you choose to plant, they can be an excellent focal point or border plant. Moreover, these perennial plants can live for up to 50 years, making them long-lasting additions to your garden that can even be passed down to future generations. Peonies produce massive blooms, with some cultivars featuring blossoms as large as eight to ten inches in diameter. These flowers also have a delightful fragrance that can add to your enjoyment of the garden while providing lovely foliage throughout the spring, summer, and fall. With numerous varieties available, peonies can be found in various colors, making them an excellent choice for any garden bed or potted display on your patio or deck. Some recommended varieties include Prairie Moon, an attractive white peony with yellow centers that typically blooms in June.

Bartzella peony flower

Looking for a stunning peony cultivar to add to your garden? The Bartzella variety might be just what you need. Boasting beautiful yellow blooms, this plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and has a spicy fragrance. What’s more, its sturdy stems make it an excellent choice for harsher climates.

If you’re after a cultivar that produces copious flowers, consider the Cora Louise. This hybrid variety can yield up to 50 blooms per plant, with white outer petals and pink inner petals surrounding a yellow center. Look for these beauties to appear in late spring.

For a bold pop of color, check out the Blaze cultivar. Its petals are a deep, fiery red, offset by a bright yellow center. Like other peonies, Blaze is a feast for the senses, offering both beauty and fragrance to any garden.

dark burgundy colored chocolate soldier peony flower

The Chocolate Soldier peony variety offers a beautiful combination of form and color that is hard to resist. These stunning flowers boast deep red petals with distinctive cup-like shapes and vivid yellow centers that catch the eye. For those seeking an impressive flower size, the Dinner Plate peony variety is a must-see. True to its name, these pink blossoms open up to an incredible size, measuring around 7-8 inches in diameter – pretty crazy! Finally, the Nippon Beauty peony variety is a unique and stunning option. With its red outer petals and small, thin inner petals arranged in a ball formation, it’s sure to stand out in any garden.

claire de lune peony flower

The Claire de Lune peony is a stunning choice to add some delicate charm to your garden. With its large yellow centers and creamy white petals, it’s definitely one to consider. For those who prefer a more dramatic look, the Buckeye Belle may be a better choice with its deep red petals and contrasting yellow center.

raspberry sundae peony flower pink and cream colors

The Raspberry Sundae peony is named after its creamy pink color combination, which adds to its beauty. Another stunning cultivar is the Madame Emile Debatene, with double pink petals and a tufted center. For an ethereal effect, choose the La Lorraine cultivar, which features creamy petals transitioning to soft pink. The Bowl of Beauty has bright pink outer petals surrounding thin creamy centers, while the Imaculee has white inner and outer petals with dominant clusters of thin, tiny petals in the center and red stamens peeking out. Peonies are widespread plants native to multiple continents and can thrive in climate zones 3-9. Tree peonies typically blossom in April and May, while herbaceous peonies bloom after tree peonies, and intersectional peonies flower around the time when herbaceous peony blossoms are dying. The blooming period varies depending on the cultivar within each category.

multi-hued pink peony flower varieties

For longer peony blossoms, it’s best to plant a variety of different peonies with varied bloom times. Any particular peony plant will only blossom for about a week or two at most, so planting early blooming varieties, midseason blooming varieties, and late blooming varieties is essential to enjoy peonies for more than a week each year. Planting herbaceous hybrids, species, and woody peonies may also extend the bloom season by up to a month or more.

To ensure longer-lasting cut flowers, peonies are ideal as they can last around a week or more in a vase. The best time to plant peonies is early autumn, but in zones 7-8, it’s recommended to wait a little longer. It’s crucial to give your peonies at least six weeks to establish themselves before the first freeze, and planting them in their intended permanent location is ideal as they don’t like to be transplanted.

Peonies require rich, fertile soil with a neutral pH that drains well and needs deep watering when planting them and throughout the summer if the location is dry. Planting peony tubers in garden beds involves ensuring adequate soil conditions, digging a hole, placing the tuber, and covering it with soil.

In summary, planting a variety of peony plants, selecting cultivars with different bloom seasons, and providing ideal growing conditions are all key to enjoy continual blossoms for as long as possible.

peony roots being planted

Planting peonies is a breeze, but there are a few vital details you need to bear in mind for successful blooms. Firstly, select a suitable location in your garden with optimal sun and soil conditions. If you’re planting several peonies in the same vicinity, ensure they have adequate space between them – around 3-4 feet apart is ideal – to prevent any disease from spreading. Next up, dig a hole approximately 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide, and create a small hill of soil inside it. Add one cup of bonemeal to the mix, and if required, about four inches of compost. Finally, place the tuber on the mound created before, ensuring that the eyes are facing upwards.

peony tuber being planted on its side

Planting peony blossoms correctly is crucial for their successful growth. It is recommended to plant the tuber on its side and not too deeply, about two inches below the soil’s surface. If you live in the south, cut the depth in half. Planting too deep may result in the plant surviving but not producing any flowers. After planting, gently pat down the soil and water your peony deeply.
If you prefer growing peonies in containers, it is possible, but you still need to use rich, well-draining soil, such as a mix of topsoil and perlite or peat moss and compost. The container should be large enough to accommodate the peony plant and have proper drainage holes.
To care for your peonies, make sure to fertilize them regularly, mulch around the base to retain moisture, and trim back dead leaves and stems in the fall. With these tips, your peony plants should thrive and produce beautiful blooms.

peony plant shoots coming up through mulch layer

Peonies are beautiful perennial flowers that can grace your garden for many years, but they require some care to keep them healthy and blooming. One important aspect of caring for peonies is fertilizing them. While adding bonemeal to the planting hole is recommended, you may also want to use an organic, slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring when the stems reach about 1 foot. The ideal type of all-purpose organic granular fertilizer varies depending on the type of peony you are growing, so it’s best to do some research on what works well for your specific variety. You should avoid fertilizing directly at the crown of the plant, as this can cause damage.

Mulching is another crucial step in caring for peonies. After planting, it’s a good idea to mulch around the plants to protect them during the winter. Evergreen branches or straw are both great options, but make sure to leave a few inches of clearance between the mulch and the stems to prevent disease.

Lastly, staking your peonies can help keep the stems upright and prevent damage from strong winds or heavy blooms. You can use bamboo stakes or other supportive materials to create a structure around the plant that will provide necessary support. With proper care and attention, your peonies can thrive for years to come.

large peony blossoms with support stakes

Staking can be beneficial for peonies depending on their size, variety, and weather conditions. Although most peony stems are sturdy enough to hold up the weight of their blossoms without staking, heavy blooms may require additional support. Additionally, if your garden receives strong wind or rain, staking can prevent damage to the plant. You can purchase specialized peony rings for this purpose, or regular stakes can suffice. If you choose to use stakes, arrange them in a circle formation for optimal support. Pruning peonies is not a demanding task and is one of the reasons why these plants are low-maintenance. Knowing when to cut back peonies is essential for promoting healthy growth.

pruning of peonies in the fall

Timing is crucial when pruning peonies to ensure that they will continue to bloom year after year. You can trim them, but make sure to avoid doing so too early in the season. Steve Bender from Southern Living offers some helpful advice on this matter. A reader asked if it was okay to trim their peonies after the blossoms had faded. Steve’s response was clear: “Don’t even think about it! If you do, you won’t get any flowers next year.” The foliage of the peony needs to absorb sunlight throughout the summer to store energy for the following year’s blooms. Hence, cutting them off beforehand will result in a lackluster display. Wait until fall when the leaves turn yellow before trimming them. Though do not trim your fading peonies, you can deadhead them if desired.

When trimming, make sure not to leave the cut foliage lying around the peonies because it can attract insects and diseases. Peonies are susceptible to various pests and diseases like stem rot, ringspot virus, nematodes, peony thrips, bulb mites, and botrytis blight. However, deer are not interested in eating peonies.

If you want to transplant your peonies, the best time to do it is in the fall. Make sure they have at least six hours of direct sunlight and well-draining soil. When digging them up, be careful not to damage the roots. Replant them as soon as possible, water them thoroughly, and add mulch to protect them during the winter.

dividing and transplanting peonies

Fall is the ideal time to divide or transplant peonies, as they are preparing for their dormant period during the winter. While it is possible to transplant them at other times of the year, it may not be successful and could even harm the plant. When transplanting, be sure to dig around the plant carefully to preserve the roots and keep the rootball intact, avoiding any tugging on the stems which could damage them. It’s also important to prep the new soil before planting, ensuring that it drains well and is nutrient-rich. When backfilling the hole, it’s best to mimic the previous planting depth to help the plant establish. While establishing in its new location, regular watering is not necessary, but some water may be needed in drought conditions. For those looking to plant companion plants with their peonies, it’s recommended to choose shade-loving plants such as ferns, hostas, and bleeding hearts.

peonies planted with foxgloves

When planning where to plant your peonies, it’s also important to consider companion plants. Here are some options worth considering: columbines, roses, irises, foxgloves, hydrangeas, daffodils, camellias, lavender, and rosemary. These plants complement and contrast with peonies in various ways, making them great options to grow together. Peonies are not carnations; they belong to the Paeoniaceae family and can grow anywhere from 2-7 feet tall depending on the variety. Peonies are deer-resistant but may be eaten by rabbits, squirrels, beavers, hoplia beetles, scale insects, peony thrips, and bulb mites. Despite ants being commonly found on peonies, they do not harm the plant. Peonies are perennial plants that can thrive year after year, but they are not as drought-tolerant as some other perennials. You can buy peonies locally or online for the biggest selection of cultivars.

(50 Pcs Seeds) Mixed Peony Flower Seeds Value Bag for Planting

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Get your hands on a value bag of 50 mixed peony flower seeds perfect for planting. These flowers come in a variety of colors, each with its own unique and stunning beauty. With hundreds of varieties available, you’re sure to find one that captures your heart. These large and fragrant flowers have been cherished since ancient times, and now you can bring their beauty to your own garden.

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