Peonies are attractive, fragrant perennials with lush foliage and large, vibrant blooms. The easy-to-grow herbaceous plants require little maintenance when established. The tuberous roots are left in the soil during the winter months unlike other bulbs that are dug up and stored indoors. The showy blooms liven up the landscape or container garden for many months, and also form long-lasting cut flowers in arrangements or bouquets. Follow a basic care program so your plants come up every spring and produce healthy blooms.
Things You’ll Need
- Compost or peat moss
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Soaker hose
- 5-10-10 fertilizer
- Organic mulch
- Pruning shears
- Sharp knife
- Elastic ties
- Locate the most suitable planting site with well-draining soil, full sunlight and free air circulation. Prepare the planting holes with generous amounts of compost or peat moss and 1/4-cup 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dig each hole 10 inches deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Space multiple plants 3 to 4 feet apart.
- Water peonies deeply after planting. Irrigate each plant to a depth of 3 to 4 inches after they’re established. Mature plants do well on a watering schedule of every 10 days to two weeks. Use a soaker hose that assists deep watering and encourages the roots to travel deeper in search of water.
- Feed the 2- to 3-inch-tall plants 2 lbs. of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 100-square-foot area in spring. Space the fertilizer 2 inches apart from each plant stem to prevent direct contact.
- Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch such as hay or coarse straw over each peony plant to protect it during the first winter. Remove the mulch in spring.
- Inspect peonies for symptoms of fungal diseases such as spots on leaves and softening of stems that indicate botrytis blight. Prune infected plant parts and clean plant debris in fall. Follow label directions to treat emerging shoots with a registered fungicide. Treat leaf blotch (dark purple, glossy spots on upper and lower leaf surfaces) with a registered fungicide and avoid overhead watering.
- Remove spent or faded blooms as often as possible to extend blooming and encourage new flowers. Cut the stems of dormant peonies as close to the ground at the of end September or early October to prevent disease and pest damage.
- Divide the peonies if you notice a decline in flower production. Dig the clump out of the soil and wash away the soil to expose the eyes. Cut the clump into sections with a clean, sterilized knife, each comprising four to five eyes and roots. Replant the new divisions immediately.
- Install a wooden stake behind each plant and secure it with elastic ties or insert a hoop to support weighty blooms.
Tips & Warnings
Newly transplanted peonies take two to three years to establish and produce blooms.