Attractive perennials with vibrant blooms and lush foliage, peonies form eye-catching displays in gardens across the United States. Unlike other bulb plants that are dug out of the soil in fall and stored indoors, peony bulbs are left in the soil during the winter. If cared for properly, the hardy herbaceous perennials survive many years to liven up the garden or container with endless blooms for many months. Although easy-to-grow plants, peonies require basic care so they remain healthy throughout the season.
Things You’ll Need
- Peat moss or compost
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Soaker hose
- 5-10-10 fertilizer
- Manure (optional)
- Commercial hoop or stake
- Pruning scissors
- Plant peony seedlings in well-draining soil exposed to full sunlight in fall or spring, when the soil is workable. Incorporate a 2-inch-thick layer of peat moss and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of well-balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dig a hole 10 to 12 inches deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Ideally, the graft union should fall 1 inch below soil level. Space the peonies 3 feet apart.
- Irrigate peonies deeply immediately after planting. Afterward, water the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches every 10 to 12 days. Use a soaker hose to encourage deep rooting and prevent wetting the foliage.
- Feed 2- to 3-inch-tall plants 2 to 3 lbs. of 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet in spring. Spread the fertilizer granules 2 to 3 inches away from the stem to avoid direct contact. Alternatively, spread 1 to 2 inches of well-rotted manure around the peonies, spaced 3 inches away from the stems to prevent direct contact.
- Install a commercial hoop or wooden stake next to the peony plant to support the stem because of the weight of the blooms. Secure the stem to the support with elastic ties.
- Divide peonies every three years to prevent overcrowding, preferably in September or October. Carefully remove the clump from the planting hole and wash the soil to expose eyes. Using a sharp, sterilized knife, divide the clump into sections containing three to five eyes and roots. Replant the sections immediately to prevent the roots from drying.
- Examine growing peonies for fungal diseases such as leaf blotch and botrytis blight. Symptoms of leaf blotch include purple shiny spots on upper and lower leaf surfaces, while softening stems and left spots characterize botrytis blight. Cut infected parts with sharp, sterilized pruning scissors and discard clippings. Treat emerging roots with a registered fungicide.
Tips & Warnings
Remove seed heads on the plant immediately after flowering to help the plant store energy for blooms that appear the next year.