Every yard looks great with a few peonies. These soft, billowing perennial blooms come to life in spring and early summer, with their pink, white, and yellow blooms standing out atop green undergrowth. There are roughly 30 different species of peonies that grow to be more impressive year after year. Peonies do well with both full and partial sun exposure in US zones 3-8. Some may even outlive the person who planted them, reaching a lifespan of 100 years or more. Very easy to care for, these plants are perfect flowering additions to any hedgerow, flower bed, or yard.
Types of Peonies
There are four main types of peonies grown today. While most peonies do well with generalized care, there are some special considerations for each variety:
- Herbaceous. These are the most common peonies that create full blooms that work beautifully in cut-flower arrangements. They will stay viable for a week or longer once they have been cut. Most plants will bloom for 7-10 days in late spring and early summer. Make sure these plants get at least five hours of sun per day in an environment that drains well.
- Tree peonies. An earlier blooming peony than their herbaceous counterpart, expect this variety to bloom in April or May. They are woodier and can stand alone in your yard without the need for supports. Tree peonies grow slowly, but last for generations.
- Intersectional. These herbaceous/tree peony hybrids develop large tree-like peony flowers on herbaceous peony stems and are capable of producing more than 50 blooms during a mature blooming season. With a longer blooming season of 3-4 weeks, these disease-resistant peonies are highly sought after for their compact build and high producing nature.
- Woodland herbaceous. A type of peony that grows well in the shade, these smaller varieties create ground cover in forest areas and produce small white flowers in spring.
General Care Tips for Peonies
Make sure your peonies are in the right type of soil to help them thrive. They prefer loamy environments with a neutral pH. Try to use compost or fertilizer when you plant. That should be all they need to get started. They also love bone meal, so add one cup to the soil when you plant.
If your peonies are new, give them time to start blooming. Most take a couple of years to start really showing their potential, so don’t worry if yours haven’t started to bud out after the first year or two. If you are concerned about the soil makeup around your plant, it’s alright to add extra fertilizer in early summer to help it along, but only do so once every few years.
Since peony blooms are so large and heavy, they can sometimes damage the structural integrity of the stems. Keep your peonies looking bright year after year with a peony support to help bear the burden of blooming.
At the end of the blooming season, in early summer, you should deadhead the plant, leaving only the uniform foliage until the end of the season. In fall, go ahead and cut the plant to the ground to prevent the plant from catching a disease during the winter months. During winter, you can cover the plants with mulch, but don’t add too much. They do well with a loose sprinkling that can be easily removed in spring.
If you are growing peonies in warmer climates, plant them in partially shaded areas. They do not like the extreme heat of summer, and their blooms will last longer if they are out of direct heat.
Peonies are some of the hardiest flowering plants you can choose for your space. The only disease they commonly face is botrytis, a fungal disease. Keep the soil drained to prevent your plant from weakening and falling prey to this issue. If you notice black buds and plant stems, your peony plant is likely sick. Remove the affected areas, and put the disease-ridden areas in the trash, not out in your yard.
Creating New Plants
If you have a peony that is particularly vibrant, you can divide it to add more plants to your yard
or to share with friends. Divide the plants when they are dormant in fall by using a spade or other sharp gardening tool to divide the bulb. Keep 3-5 eyes in each divided section for the best results, and replant your new peonies with plenty of water. After you have transplanted your peony, remember that it will take a few years to start blooming again.
Photographer George Chang the photograph of Pink Peony under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer capsulabiblica the photograph of Herbaceous Peony under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer JamesDeMers the photograph of Tree Peony under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Stefan Schweihofer the photograph of Intersectional Peony under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Tatyana Kazakova the photograph of Peonies under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Ábel Újfalusi the photograph of White Peony under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay
Photographer Takaharu Misawa the photograph of Peony Garden under a Creative Commons License on Pixabay