Peonies are thriving bushes in the garden, and feature bright and fragrant red, orange and pink blooms in summer. These plants are relatively hardy and do best with fall plantings in most areas, to give them time to grow and establish before the heat of summer arrives. Peonies can grow in a range of soil types, but do best in acidic to neutral soil that drains quickly. They require only minimal feedings when they sit in good soil.
Nutrition for peonies should start at planting, to ensure an easier gardening experience. These plants need quick drainage and a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, so incorporate 4 inches of organic matter into the top 12 inches of soil at planting. This matter ensures drainage, nutrition and moisture retention for the plants.
Peonies do well with 10-10-10 fertilizer, bone meal or superphosphate at planting, though gardeners must mix these amendments into soil that doesn’t touch the plant roots. Avoid over fertilization or nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, as this will weaken the plant’s growth.
Feed peonies in spring after spring growth begins. Give each plant 1/2 cup of slow-release low-nitrogen fertilizer like 5-10-10 or 10-20-20. Add 2 inches of organic compost to the soil around each peony plant in spring as well, to maintain soil health, drainage and nutrition. Use well-rotted manure as an organic alternative to synthetic fertilizer.
Mulch protects soil temperature and moisture, and restricts weed growth around peonies. As mulch breaks down, it also adds organic nutrients to the soil, to help maintain soil and plant health. Keep a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch on the soil around peonies at all times to aid the plants in their growth.