How to Cultivate Peonies
Spring is often signaled by the arrival of showy peony flowers bursting into bloom. These hardy perennials are commonly grown because they are not hard to care for. They are noted for dark-green leaves that complement flowers in a variety of colors, with pink and white the most common. Like people, ants are attracted to the smell of the flowers; the bugs will not harm the plant. If properly cared for, these plants will live in your garden for many years. Peonies are also a great old-fashioned, and fragrant, cutting flower.
Things You’ll Need
- Pruning shears
- Select a space for the peony plant. This plant needs lots of room and six to eight hours of sunlight. Plant them about 3 feet apart in rich, well-drained soil. Also, keep peonies away from trees, whose roots can away steal water and nutrients.
- Plant the peony. Dig a hole about 18 inches deep and add 4 inches of compost to the hole. Remove the peony from the container and add it to the hole. Make sure it is at the same level of soil as in the container. The "eyes" on the roots should be about 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Carefully add soil around the roots and firmly pat it down.
- Water the peony plant regularly. Let the soil dry out before watering again. Make sure the peony gets extra water when the weather is hot or dry.
- Add 3 or 4 inches of mulch around the base of the plant. This will help to conserve water and suppress weeds.
- Fertilize peonies carefully. Giving the plant too much nitrogen will make it produce lots of leaves and few flowers. Peonies do best with a 5-10-10 NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) fertilizer.
- Stake the peony plants if they begin to fall over.
- Harvest the peony blooms carefully so as to not stress or damage the plant. Do not take more than half the flowers at one time and don’t cut flowers from a plant that is less than three years old.
- Deadhead the peony plants. After the flowers die, remove them so the plant will keep producing new flowers.
- Divide the peonies. When the flowers begin to get smaller, it is a sign that the plant needs to be dug up and divided. Carefully dig up the roots and remove some, leaving three or more "eyes" on each root section if you want to plant them and grow more peonies.
- Cut the plant back in the fall, after it dies back from cold weather. Leave about 3 inches of stem above the soil.