Although many garden shrubs produce colorful flowers and beautiful foliage, few offer the wide range of the peony. The peony grows in large and small cultivars and produces single and double flowers in coral, red, cream, scarlet, purple, white, yellow and even black. Sarah Bernhardt peonies produce ruffled, decorative blooms in the red and pink families, with most blooms maturing to a rich, rosy pink. These plants grow to 3 feet in height and 12 to 16 inches in width, and need the right planting site, season and nutrition to thrive.
- Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need
- Garden fork
- Organic compost/peat
- Prepare to plant Sarah Bernhardt peonies in fall, just before the first frost in your area. Peonies are hardy to cold and frost, and need a winter resting period to take root and establish for spring blooming.
- Find sites for your Sarah Bernhardt peonies. The plants need full to partial sun, or dappled or indirect light. Don’t plant them in deep shade or in sites that puddle after rain. Give each peony 2 to 3 feet of space to grow and expand.
- Amend the soil in each site, in a band 1 foot across, 6 inches wide and 1 foot deep. Dig up the natural soil and mix in 6 inches of peat moss or organic compost to increase soil quality and nutrition. Add 1/4 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer to each planting site. Starting the peonies in a good foundation ensures a more successful lifetime of growth.
- Plant Sarah Bernhardt peony roots so that the highest bud is 1 to 2 inches beneath the surface. Deep or shallow planting results in failure. Pack the soil down around the roots to secure the plants.
- Water each site until the soil is moist down to 5 inches, and water the ponies with this much water each week to maintain moisture during dry times.
- Mulch each planting site with 2 inches of organic mulch to keep the soil moist and warm, and to protect the roots through winter. Maintain this layer throughout the winter and into spring.
Tips & Warnings
Sarah Bernhardt peonies are hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Growing zones 3 to 8, and won’t thrive in hot, dry regions.
Prune your peonies down to the ground in fall to protect them from winter fungus.
Peonies do not thrive in spring plantings, as they don’t have time to rest and take root.