How to Garden Peonies


Long-lived peonies provide color to the garden for many years. Peonies are well-suited to beds and borders where their flowers provide color briefly in early summer, but the foliage provides a green backdrop to other plants throughout the summer. The plants range from 2 to 4 feet in height, with shorter types suitable for beds and containers while taller plants are used in background plantings. Peonies suffer from few pests and diseases, making them a dependable addition to the perennial flower garden.

Moderately Easy


Things You’ll Need
  • Compost
  • Superphosphate
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Shears
    1. Apply a 2-inch layer of compost over a garden bed that receives six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Add 2 tbsp. of superphosphate fertilizer to each 100 square feet of bed, then till the compost and fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil.
    2. Sow the peonies in the bed so the top of the tuberous root sits 2 inches beneath the soil surface. Space the peonies 12 inches apart in all directions.
    3. Water the peony bed until the soil is moist to a 6-inch depth. Continue to water the bed weekly when the ground isn’t frozen, always moistening the soil to a 6-inch depth.
    4. Mulch around peonies each fall with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch. Use bark chips, shredded wood mulch or straw.
    5. Fertilize peonies each spring once the new shoots are 4 inches tall. Apply a 5-10-5 fertilizer at the rate of 3 lbs. per every 100 square feet of bed. Water the bed immediately after fertilizing so the nutrients leech down to the root zone.
    6. Pinch off the top 1/2 inch of each growing shoot in spring to encourage bushy growth. Pinch the peonies back a second time at midsummer if they become leggy or overgrown.
    7. Cut the peonies to the soil level with a pair of shears once frost has killed off the foliage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some peonies survive for a hundred years or more, so plant these flowers in a bed where they can stay put for many years.

  • Plant peony tubers in fall about six weeks before the first expected frost. Plant bedding plants in spring after all frost danger is past.

  • Do not leave dead peony material in the bed over winter. This can lead to disease problems in the bed.

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