Peonies (paeonia) are one of the oldest, most widely-planted of the spring-flowering perennials. Popular as a cut flower, they are valued for their easy care, long life and gorgeous multipetaled flowers. Their sumptuous beauty and delightful fragrance put on a show in both the garden and the vase.
Peony flowers come in singles, semi-doubles and full doubles, in shades of white, pink, red and every combination of those in between. For example, our Sorbet has gorgeous pink and white double blooms or Festiva Maxima which is speckled with crimson. Some of the singles, like Adolphe Rousseau or Krinkled White have bright yellow centers.
For best results plant divisions with at least 2 healthy buds (ours have 3 to 5). Peonies will take 1 to 2 years to bloom. If you desire blooms sooner, you might try our Peony Clumps. They are all from mature undivided 10 year old plants. Economical and fast-growing, they have 15-20 eyes average. For best results plant Peonies in the cool months of Fall. The tops will remain dormant but the roots will continue to grow through the Winter.
Where to plant:
Peonies grow in open mounds or clumps. You can plant them singly, in rows in a mixed border. They will even make a lovely hedge for a riot of color. They will last for many years, so plant them where they can bloom undisturbed for years. They don't like to be moved, so the soil should be deeply and well prepared before they are set out.
Peonies also like a well-drained soil and will quickly rot if left in standing water. They can last more than a century if left in the same spot! For the most part they do like full sun, but in hot areas some afternoon shade will definitely help.
How to Plant
We dig our Peonies in the Fall and this is definitely the best time of year to plant them in your garden! Dig a hole approximately 18 inches wide and deep. You can dig in some compost and if your soil is highly acidic add 1 cup of lime. Mix in some fertilizer or bone meal in the bottom of the hole. Replace some of the soil to make a cone shape in the middle and drape the roots over the top of the cone. They should be no more than 1 inch below the surface, or 1 1/2 inches in very cold regions. Planting deeper that this will likely result in all leaves and no flowers. Cover with the rest of the soil mix and add a layer of mulch in colder areas after the ground has frozen.
Peonies in the South
Peonies require winter chilling of approximately from 100 to 300 hours to encourage dormancy. If you live in warmer winter areas, you may not have to go without Peonies! Many of the older cultivars perform reasonably well in the upper and middle South including: Festiva Maxima (white double with a crimson center), Felix Supreme (raspberry), Jules Elie (medium pink double) and Sarah Bernhardt (apple blossom pink). In addition to planting the correct varieties, here are some hints that might help you grow Peonies if you are in warmer regions.
Plant on a northern exposure and do not mulch in the winter.
Plant in partial shade and avoid afternoon sun
Periodically mulch with ice cubes (no kidding!)
Plant early-blooming varieties such as Jules Elie or Krinkled White.
In the Spring pull away any heavy mulch. Peonies have large flower heads and may need staking. For larger blooms remove the side shoots on each stem. Remove flowers as soon as they fade so that they don't put their energy into seed production.
In the Fall, between Halloween and Thanksgiving, cut the stems back to 3 inches. If you have existing clumps that are 10 years old or more, you may dig them up in the fall and divide them. Use a sharp knife, making sure you have at least 3 to 5 eyes. However, most Peonies will thrive happily for 10 to 50 years without needing to be divided.
Peonies are heavy feeders, so top dress the soil with compost in the spring before the plants bloom and in late summer. This will aid in keeping your Peonies vigorous.
Peonies make wonderful cut flowers, but a good rule of thumb is to not cut flowers from plants less than three years old. A mature plant of five years should be left with about 50% of its flowers. When cutting the flowers be sure that at least some leaf is left on the remaining cut stem.
Our Peonies are freshly dug in the fall and with care will give you years of enjoyment.