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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mulch around peonies each fall with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch. Use bark chips, shredded wood mulch or straw.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.