Peonies have always been one of the favorites, as far as flowering plants are concerned. They are highly sought after, for their lovely flowers with amazing fragrance. Another plus point of growing peonies is that these plants are not messy, and require very less maintenance. Most of them have a very good lifespan too.
Basically, peonies are categorized on the basis of plant type or flower type. According to the plant type, they are categorized into tree peonies, herbaceous peonies, and intersectional peonies that are the hybrids produced by crossing both the tree and herbaceous ones. As per the flower type, peonies are named single, double, semi-double, full double, etc. While the herbaceous peonies die in winter and regrow in spring, the tree types lose leaves in winter. The intersectional types too die back in winter and regrow in spring. Even though these plants are not messy, a small degree of care can work wonders.
Choosing Location: As these plants do not respond well to transplanting every now and then, it is always better to plant them in the right location. Such location must provide them with full sun to partial shade. While full sun is good for peonies, a little bit of shade will be preferred during the hottest days. The location must offer the plants with good air circulation. Avoid places with big trees and other plants growing in large numbers. This may also hinder with the root growth of peonies.
Preparing Soil: Early fall is the best time to plant peonies. You may grow peonies from bare root plants, or from those grown in nursery containers. The soil must be prepared beforehand. The soil for growing peonies must be slightly acidic and well-drained. Even though peonies need moist soil, sogginess is not advisable. In case of water retention, root rot may develop in peonies. The soil must be mixed with compost. This is unavoidable, if the soil is mainly composed of clay. In case, the soil is alkaline, it will be better to use rhododendron (or azalea) soil mixture, instead of compost. You may also add a small amount of high phosphorous fertilizer to the soil.
Planting: If you are using herbaceous peony roots with eyes (buds), make sure that the eyes are carefully handled. Even the placement of the eyes inside the soil, is of utmost importance. In regions with cold climates, the eyes must be five centimeters below the soil surface, and in case of places with warm climates, the depth should be 2.5 centimeters from the soil surface. If you think that you have planted them deep, remove some soil from the surface. If you plant them very deep, the plants will fail to bloom. Otherwise too, peonies may not bloom during the first year of planting. According to experts, it will be better to remove buds that develop during that year, because this results in root growth. If you want to plant peonies from nursery containers, then plant them at the same level, as in the container. Peonies grow well in cold climates as they get a good winter dormancy period. So partial shade is recommended for peonies grown in warm climates.
Some Peony Care Tips
- Once planted, keep the soil moist, but during the summer months and dry spells, these plants require regular deep watering.
- Mulching during summer will be beneficial for retaining moisture. Make sure to remove the mulch, before winter.
- These plants can be fed with a small amount of fertilizer (low nitrogen) during spring and growing season. Feeding can be done in small amounts, when new shoots emerge.
- As new shoots grow, make sure to protect them from kids, pets, and other animals, as they are too fragile, and can get damaged easily.
- Some people opt for disbudding, wherein some of the new shoots are removed, so that the others grow healthy and produce larger flowers. However, this is optional. You may also use fireplace ash or bone meal for feeding peony plants during early spring.
- Proper staking may be required for providing support to the plant, while blooming. The large peony flowers may cause the plant to droop, thereby affecting its lifespan.
- While harvesting flowers, make sure to leave as many leaves as possible, as the plants need them for making food. Even after blooming, leave the foliage throughout the summer and the fall.
- After blooming, remove the dead flowers so as to prevent formation of seeds, which may hinder with the next season of flower formation.
- Once the leaves die back in winter, cut down the stems to three inches. These stems have to be removed and destroyed. After removing the stems, mulch with straw, which has to be removed in spring.
- Transplanting peonies should be done in plants that are more than 15 years of age. All you have to do is to dig out the root clump and clean the soil. Remove the foliage, and cut into root parts. Each root part must have at least four to five eyes. If there are any soft or damaged parts, apply some fungicide on them, before planting these root sections.
Once established, peonies are easy to grow, with least maintenance. It is advisable to acquire a thorough knowledge about growing peonies, before you venture into this task.