Peonies are one of the most luscious of all flowers, beloved by many. Peony plants are exceptionally long-living perennials and they will provide abundant blooms for decades once well-established.
Coral Charm peonies from Renfrow Farms in image above
Location: Full sun preferred, or if they must be partly shaded, light afternoon shade is ok. 8 hours of sunlight or more is ideal for maximum blooming. Site needs good drainage and air circulation. These plants live for decades so put them in a permanent location as they prefer not to be disturbed once established. Deer do not care for peonies, yay!!
Planting: Individual plants should be approximately 3 feet apart. Dig a wide hole to easily accommodate the funky shaped bare root plant. They should be buried so that the “eyes” (the pinkish buds on the root) are approximately 1-2 inches deep, but go no deeper as this will keep them from blooming as abundantly, even though the plant will still grow. Foliage will sprout up in late winter/early spring and initially be identifiable as red/burgundy/pink shoots that will turn to green as the leaves come out and begin photosynthesizing. Most plants will only put up a few leaves and no flowers the first year, more leaves and a few blooms the second year, and become a lush, abundantly-blooming plant in the years following. Patience is required when growing this plant, but peonies are more than worth the wait!!
Watering Needs: Water deeply upon planting to help soil settle around the roots. During the growing season, water deeply once per week during droughty seasons, avoiding daily, light waterings. Do not water if we receive ample rainfall – approximately 1″ per week of watering/rain is a good estimate.
Fertilization: Fertilize in spring when the new shoots are 2-3″ tall. Use 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 or an organic granular fertilizer like Espoma’s Flower-Tone or Plant-Tone (all sold at Renfrow’s). Take care not to overapply Nitrogen as too much can weaken the plant and cause them to produce fewer blooms. They especially love phosphorous. Get your soil tested and bring in your results to Renfrow’s and we can provide a customized recommendation based on your soil’s needs. Apply a ring of compost around the peony crown in the fall, not over top of the crown as that can weaken them for future growing seasons.
Insect Control: Ants love the sap that leaks out of peony buds before they open, but do not eat or harm the plants. Just be careful and watch for them when you harvest, and shake any off before bringing blooms into the house! If you see any other insects bothering your plants, bring a sample in a ziploc bag to the hardware store for Ted, the “Plant Doctor” to look at one Saturday in the spring or summertime when the issue arises.
Diseases: For any peony disease issues that arise, bring in a sample in a ziploc bag to the hardware store on a Saturday for Ted, the “Plant Doctor” to diagnose!
Flowering & Harvest: The plants will send up shoots in late winter/early spring, bloom in the April-May timeframe in our climate, and then retain showy foliage throughout the summer and into the fall. The blooms will have the longest vase life inside the house if picked before fully open, and instead in the “marshmallow” stage in which the bud feels soft and squishy like a marshmallow. If picked too early they will not open.
In the fall when the leaves brown or are killed by the first frost, remove and cut the plant all the way back to the ground, disposing of foliage – don’t leave it in place but instead toss them in trash (not compost pile!) so that any potential fungal diseases are not carried over from one season to the next. Plants will send up new shoots again in February/March.