A colorful and sweetly scented perennial, peonies are a garden staple. The fairly hardy plant blooms only for a short time, but if you stagger early, mid and end-of-summer cultivars you can have blooms for much of the summer. Knowing how to care for peonies before you plant will help you create optimal conditions for your peonies and add a beautiful bloom to your garden.
Well-drained soil in a sunny spot works well for peonies.
Like most garden flowers, peonies thrive in rich, well-fertilized soil. However, pristine soil conditions aren’t required to grow peonies. They do need to reside in sunny, well-drained soil that isn’t too gravely or sandy. Composted soil is an added treat for peonies.
Rich soil helps peonies grow.
When you get your peonies from the garden store or a friend, you should expect them to be roots that resemble stout, brown knotted limbs, at the end of which are bulbous "eyes" with beet-colored orbs on the ends. Before planting you should soak the roots in water if they appear dry or cracked. Create a cavity in the soil large enough to house the roots. Make sure you chose a sunny spot with at least 3 feet around available for growth that is also unencumbered by tree roots. Place the roots in the ground, with the eyes down 2 inches below ground level. Refill the area around the planted root with the soil you removed to create the cavity. During the first season, water them well, twice daily in hot, dry climates.
Water peonies daily with tap water. If you plant your peonies in sandy soil you’ll have to work harder to make sure they survive and add fertilizer to supplement the lack of nutrients in the soil. You needn’t fertilize plants in rich soil, but it doesn’t hurt to feed them with compost. In the fall, mix the compost to the soil around your peonies. After the first year peonies develop their root system and won’t require as much water.
Pluck off dead flowers to encourage plant growth.
Double-bloom peonies weigh down their stalk and topple easily in rain or wind. Once they emerge more than a few inches from the ground, stake them to ensure straight, proud, towering blooms. You may choose to use a ready-made wire support, or make your own. Bamboo stakes bound together with twine around the peony provide adequate support for heavy flowers. After the peony blooms, cut back the flower all the way to the stalk, which will encourage next year’s growth.