When I first fell in love with peonies I knew I wanted them to grow in abundance in my yard. I wanted them everywhere and I wanted them in every color. Not many other flowers can contend with their beauty and scent that fills a room. I was a little worried though. With no gardening experience, was it possible for me to grow something that gorgeous? After doing a little research, I bought some plants and decided I had nothing to lose.
After producing blooms for a few years I can tell you with confidence that these plants are easy to grow. My poor peonies had to undergo a pregnancy where I lost motivation when it came to the garden. They also survived neglect from a spring and summer when I was adjusting to motherhood. Even after two rough summers, my peonies are doing better than ever. They were untrimmed in the fall and had grass taking over their shoots, but they still persevered. So, if you love the flowers, but have avoided putting them in your garden because you thought you needed skills – forget about it.
Peonies are tough plants, but there are definitely some tricks to make sure you get gorgeous blooms year after year. Here are my 5 tips for growing gorgeous peonies:
Potted peonies that you find in your local green house should be planted in the spring. This is typically what I do when I expand my garden however, you may see better results by planting bare-root stock that is dug right from a peony farm and shipped dormant in the fall (I am planning on giving this a try this fall). If you decide to go this route, immediately plant these roots so they have time to establish before winter makes an appearance.
Light & water
Peonies love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sunlight. Most of my peonies receive sunlight throughout the entire day (more than six hours) and I have never had a problem. One problem that I have had is over-watering. That is one way to definitely kill a peony. Choose wisely when you plant and be sure there is good drainage.
Dig a hole two to three times as wide as the root. That gives you plenty of space to add and manure or compost to the organic soil in your garden. Phosphate-rich fertilizer, such as bonemeal, is an added bonus for peonies. Here is the most important take away from this blog post (see diagram above)! Make sure the planting depth is not too deep. If roots are planted too deep, you could risk growing a peony bush that doesn’t flower. And I can’t think of anything more sad. Place the roots just below the soil surface. The buds, or the eyes of the plant should only be 1.5 – 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Also, peonies can get up to three feet wide, so space give them some space apart.
Once the plants are established and producing large flowers, they may need staking to keep their flower heads supported under the weight of the massive blooms. Weather is no help when it comes to this issue so adding support like a peony pal early on can prevent a flattened plant.
Picking & cutting
I saved the hardest bit of advice to take for last. Young plants might produce some smaller buds, but it will do your plant good to avoid harvesting from a newly planted peony for 2-3 years. If you cut from a young plant, it may effect the future production of flowers. If you can wait, the payoff will be the huge, beautiful blooms you dream of! For the best vase life, I use a trick I read from Erin Benzakein’s new book Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden. Try to harvest at a “soft marshmallow” stage and if they are still hard, give them some more time so that they will open while in the vase. Lastly, remember to cut the stem at an angle. Make sure to leave at least two sets of leaves on the stem you harvested from so the plant still has plenty of opportunity to grow throughout the summer. Enjoy!