Gardening Advice

Peony Flowers

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We have already talked about peony types, general growing and peony care as well as trouble shooting. Finally here are a few extra peony tips to help you grown big beautiful peonies to enjoy for many many years.

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Sensible Gardening and Living

If you really want the largest peony blooms ever, or perhaps you are entering a garden show, prune out a few of the side shoots in the early spring. You will naturally end up with fewer blooms but they will be bigger. With less flower bud production the plant will have more energy to give those buds that are left.

As your flowers fade keep them pruned off regularly. This will make your plant much more attractive and prevent the production of seed heads which depletes the plants energy. If you want to try growing peonies from seed then leave one or two seed heads behind but be prepared to be patient.

If unknowingly you moved a large peony clump without dividing it first your transplant will not likely respond well. Better to lift it again, divide carefully and replant. Do this in the fall. I feel peonies are best left alone as dividing them is difficult and sets the plant back several years.

Choose a selection of peony cultivars with different blooming times to increase your overall garden blooming time. Blooms generally begin in mid May.

If you should decide to divide your peony ensure that each new plant has at least three to five eyes and replant the divisions as soon as possible.

Peony flowers make great cut flowers. It is best to cut the bloom at the loose bud stage as it will open and last much longer than if cut in full bloom.  When cutting the stems do not go down too far, just about two or three leaves down. When you remove too many leaves from the plant you weaken it. Be sure to cut your peony stems in the morning for best results.

To enjoy your blooms even longer, peony flowers dry exceptionally well. Simple pick stems before the center of the bloom is fully open and hang upside down to air dry for about one week.

If it’s important to you that your peonies are sweetly fragrant ( I prefer that they are ), watch which cultivars you choose. Unfortunately not all peonies are fragrant.

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Sensible Gardening and Living

Tips for Great Peonies

Peonies are spectacular and really quite easy to grow, but like any plant variety they are not totally without problems. I’ve gathered up some of the most common concerns in growing peonies and offered solutions which should help.

My Peony does not Flower?

The most obvious reason for a peony not blooming is that it has been planted too deep. The crown should be planted no more than 2 inches deep. The solution is to lift your plant in the fall and replant to the proper depth.

Perhaps you are too impatient. Small young roots will take a couple of years to grow into bloom size plants.

Lack of water. Once established peonies are quite drought tolerant but for proper peony flowers they do require adequate water. Water your plants more often and use a ground mulch to help retain moisture.

To bloom well peonies require a minimum of 6 hours sunlight per day. Peonies growing in too much shade will not perform well. If they are planted in too much shade lift and replant in the fall to a sunnier location.

My Peonies Bud but do not Flower? 

Your peony maybe water logged, if so lift and replant in the fall. Buds may have been damaged by a late spring frost, disease or drought. Cover plants in spring on nights threatening to freeze, and give adequate water for great peony blooms.

My Peonies are Tall and Skinny?

They are most likely planted in too much shade and are reaching for the sun. If possible prune branches of other plants that are causing the shade or replant the peony to a sunnier location in the fall. For the best plants grow peonies in full sun.

My Peonies are Covered in Ants?

This is not a bad thing! The ants are feeding on the syrup given off from the flower buds. The ant are harmless, just leave them be.

My Peony Flowers are too Small?

Peonies are heavy feeders and yours probably need fertilizing. An organic  mulch every fall is excellent. You may also need to water your peonies more often.

My Peonies have a Gray Mould?

Gray mould is called botrytis blight and is often seen in cool, wet weather. New shoots and flower buds turn black in the spring and often fail to develop. Spots on the leaves may develop and stem bases may be soft and rotten. Your best approach to prevent plant blight is to be proactive, and prevent mould in the first place. Ensure your plants are not overly crowded and have good air circulation. If possible water from the base of the plants rather than overhead. Keep you garden clean and cut your herbaceous peonies down in the fall after a hard frost. If you spot mould cut the infected areas off and discard in the trash. If a peony continues to get mould move it to another location in the fall and do not replant another peony in that spot for a coupe of years.

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Like any other plant group Peonies come in varying sizes, however most come in at about 30-48 inches high and 36 inches wide. The exception is the fern peonies which are smaller growing only to 15-24 inches high. At shrub size you can use peony flowers in borders, flowerbeds, as specimens singly or grouped and as hedges.

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Pink Peony / Sensible Gardening and Living

Peony Planting

When planting peonies place your plants in preferably full sun or a part shade location. In order to bloom well they must receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Also plant peony plants far enough away from competing shrub and tree roots. Peonies require well drained soil for if left in soggy soils they will rot. They are also heavy feeders so if your soil is sandy amend it with organic matter such as compost or well rotted manure. If your soil is clay it will have enough nutrients, however amend it with sand to improve the drainage.

September through October is the ideal time to plant peony roots however for most of us they are more available in the early spring. You will find young plants growing in containers, and as long as the rootball is left undisturbed, simply move them into your prepared planting hole intact. If you are planting roots plant them 11/2 to 2 inches deep. It is very important that the crown not be placed any lower as the peony will not bloom. Buy roots that are 2-3 years old with at least 3 plump eyes to get blooms the first year. Peonies take about 4 to 5 years to mature and flower so growing from seed is only for those with great patience.

After digging and amending your hole partially back fill, pat down and add water. When the water has been absorbed place your roots on top with the eyes up and roots down. The eyes should be no more than 2 inches below ground level. Finish backfilling your hole, firm gently and water well.  If planting container plants plant them at the same depth they were in their containers.

Your new peonies should be watered weekly and not let to dry out. Once established in further seasons they are quite drought tolerant. Peonies are heavy feeders and require fertilizer in the late fall and at flowering time. Compost or well rotted manure is ideal placed in a circle around the plant. Do not place on top of the plants crown as this might hurt the new growth. If you are using a granular fertilizer choose a well balanced formula like 10-10-10 and use about 1/4 cup, placed around each plant but avoiding the crown.

If you are planting peony varieties with large heavy double blooms they may require staking to keep their heads up. Your supports or hoops should be in place before the leaves unfold.

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