Peony bushes are hybrids of the flowering species of the genus Paeonia. Countless varieties of these plant exist, all of which exhibit large, colorful flowers and prove easy to grow. So easy, in fact, that expert sources mention how little care peony bushes require once established in a garden. Though these plants require little maintenance, a handful of techniques help achieve optimal plant heath and longevity, including staking and, most importantly, proper culture.
Peony bush roots require protection against the cold winter air in order to achieve maximum flowering potential. In the late fall, after the growing season has ended, apply a layer of mulch to the ground around all peony bushes. For young species, layer mulch 6 inches thick. For established specimens, a layer of a few inches is sufficient. While snow protects peony bushes against winter damage, the amount and duration of annual snowfall proves unpredictable. Winters with limited snowfall present maximum opportunity for the cold weather to damage peony roots and the base of the plant. Mulch prevents such damage.
Dividing a bush entails digging up the root-ball and partitioning it into two or more smaller plants. With peony, dividing keeps plants healthy by reducing the number of blooms competing for resources from the roots. Peony absorb large amounts of water — the more flowers one plant bears, the less water each gets. Such a situation precipitates a decline in plant health. Ideal dividing occurs in the season after the plant has bloomed. For spring and summer blooming peony, divide in the fall. For fall blooming peony, divide in the spring. Never divide plants in the winter.
Stake peony bushes as the flowers appear during the growing season. Staking comprises the act of tethering the branches of a bush to stakes for support. Peony bushes require support to achieve optimal bloom and maintain health because their flowers are abundant and heavy. The large size and water capacity of peony flowers, coupled with the proliferation of flowers on a bush, is enough to pull the bulk of the plant to the ground, damaging stalks, blooms and potentially uprooting the bush. Tying clusters of blooming branches to wooden stakes with twine prevents such damage.
While staking, dividing and mulching peony bushes after flowering promotes ideal plant health and growth, maintaining the ideal culture for specimens before and after blooming proves crucial. Culture describes environmental conditions affecting plants. Peony bushes flourish in full or partial sun exposure, plants require at least five hours of direct sunlight to bloom. Specimens require well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 and plenty of space to grow. Peony bushes expressing difficulty blooming may be planted too close together, thus forcing their roots into competition for soil nutrients and water. Space plants at least 3 to 4 feet from one another.