How to Plan Peonies


Peonies are colorful, heavy blooming spring perennials. These plants can outlive their gardener if properly taken care of. Peonies are normally grown from a bare root and can grow into shrub-like plants or small peony trees. They grow well in zones 3 through 8 and will grow with special care in zone 2 and the northern parts of zone 9 where there are winter freezes.



Things You’ll Need
  • Peony roots
  • Compost
  • Lime
  • Peat moss
  • 5-10-5 fertilizer
  • Shovel
  • Straw mulch
    1. Soak the root in water for about an hour before planting. The roots are normally sold very dry and soaking will give the root the water it needs to start growing. Peonies should be planted in the fall so the roots have time to grow and get established before the winter freeze. Depending on the location, the planting time will be between late September and early November.
    2. Choose a location that has full sun or at least 6 hours of morning sun with some afternoon shade. Peonies should be planted 3 to 4 feet apart and not near trees or shrubs: They will lose such a competition for needed nutrients.
    3. Dig a 12-inch deep and 8-inch wide hole for each peony root. Discard at least a third of the removed soil and replace with a peat moss and compost mixture. Fill the hole the amended soil mix.
    4. Dig a small hole, in this amended soil mix, between 1 and 2 inches deep and just wide enough to fit in the root. If your soil is acidic, add a dusting of lime to the bottom of the hole. Add enough peat to cover the lime.
    5. Place the root into the hole at a slight downward angle but with all buds facing up. Keep the root between 1 and 2 inches underground. If the root is planted too deep it will not flower and may die. Fill half of the hole and water in to compact the soil around the root. Fill the remainder of the hole and hand tamp firmly so the soil is level with the rest of the bed.
    6. Sprinkle an all-purpose flower fertilizer onto the soil and cover the area with straw. Mulching will help keep the soil moist, limit weeds and insulate the soil. Remove the mulch before the peonies start to come up in early spring. If your garden is mulched during spring and summer, keep all mulch an inch or two away from the crown of the peony plant. The crown is where the plant meets the root.
    7. Soak the planting area after planting and water once or twice a week through the fall. Start to water again in the spring, but do not allow the root to sit in water. It will cause root rot and your plant will die. Water when the soil feels dry at the top.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t use manure compost as it may cause Botrytis Blight disease, a fungus that affects the leaves, stem and flowers.

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