How to Grow Peonies

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Growing peonies can be such a joy. Few flowers can contend with the beauty of peonies – their large, billowy blooms, some with hundreds of petals, and colors ranging from whites to pinks to purples to burgundies to corals to yellows. As a cut flower, they can last over a week in the vase, many also carry a sweet and subtle scent. A well-tended peony garden can thrive for 50 years or longer, gifting the fruits of your labor to future generations of flower lovers. Learn How to Grow Peonies….

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How to Plant Peonies

Planting Peonies from Containers

Potted specimens can be purchased at your local garden center and planted in the spring. Add a generous dose of compost and phosphate-rich fertilizer before you lay your plant in the hole, bonemeal is a great option for this. Try to refrain from cutting flowering stems during the first, second and even third year if you can. It will give the plant the energy it needs to establish and grow profusely for years to come. I know it’s difficult to resist the urge but the payoff will be a fully mature plant that will reward you with years of many healthy blooms!

You can get instant gratification by planting a potted peony but planting bare-root tubers in the fall will give you even better results. This is also a more economical way to plant peonies because the rootstock is a fraction of the price of potted peony plants!

How to Plant Bare-Root Peonies

Dig a hole 2-3 times as wide as the tuber.

Amend your soil, make sure it is well-drained by adding compost.

Add a phosphate-rich fertilizer like bonemeal and a handful of mycorrhizae fungi to promote root growth.

As far as depth, tubers should lay just below the soil surface. Pay special attention to this, if tubers are planted too deeply they won’t flower properly!

Space roots about three feet apart to give room for when the plant reaches its mature size.

During early spring, before foliage starts to emerge, top-dress the soil with a light sprinkle of bonemeal and no more than 2in of compost. This will feed the plant during its growing season!

How to Grow Peonies Peonies on the Flower Farm

Where to Plant Peonies?

Peonies love sun – a half day or more of sun (full sun is great) and good drainage for best growth/bloom.  A bit of shade is okay and can allow your peonies to open with more intense coloring – just be sure they are getting at least a half day of sun. (Too much shade will produce foliage and little or no peony bloom).

Peony plants grow best in the ground; however, some gardeners are planting a peony or two in large patio pots. Use an ample sized container of 10 gallons or larger for best results, as the roots of a peony grow rather large. Be sure it has adequate drainage and remember to water more frequently than a ground planted peony. Peonies will also do well in large raised beds. 

Peonies grow in a variety of soil types but, if your soil holds too much water, you run the risk of rotting the tubers. So good drainage is definitely key! You can amend most problematic soils by adding compost, it really is magical. It can loosen up dense clay and can tighten up loose sand-based soil! The compost is also beneficial because it provides key nutrients plants need in order to grow big and healthy.

Learn more about compost – Everything Compost

What month is best to plant peonies?

Plant bare root peonies in the fall. We have planted in most months of the year (bare root or from containers); they will grow more feeder roots, faster, when planted from late August through October (or November if you are in a mild fall).

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What is the best way to plant peonies?

You’ve probably heard that when it comes to planting peonies, don’t plant them too deeply (or you may get a lot of foliage and no flowers) but also don’t plant them too shallow (or they may not survive winter). 

Ideally, the goal is to plant the root in such a way that the “eyes” (or buds located on the root at the base of each stem) are just 1–2 inches below the soil, so they have some protection but aren’t too deeply buried. 

When transferring a potted peony into the ground, it should be easy to plant the peony at soil level, as the potted plant should already be planted to the correct depth in the pot. However, with bare root peonies, it’s a little trickier. Each root will look different, and the eyes may not necessarily be as neatly positioned on the root as expected. 

In this situation, do your best to get most of the eyes at the correct level, and mother nature will work her magic from there. It’s also vital to backfill soil under the peony root as needed; there should not be any pockets of air left under the roots which could otherwise cause rot from pooling water or cause the plant to sink too deep in the soil.

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Within a row, plant peonies with at least two feet between each plant, which sounds like ample room but is very close once the plants mature. It is certain that the leafy foliage of healthy peonies will be touching within the first few years of growth when planted at two-foot increments. 

For better air circulation between plants, consider planting your peonies further apart as space allows, and offset each plant when growing in double rows. Raised beds should be a minimum of three feet wide so that roots can spread in all directions within the growing space.

Can you plant peonies in the spring?

A peony planted in spring can certainly be expected to survive and thrive with dedicated care – it just may take a year or two to flower. The year when it flowers should be considered its growing “Year One”. 

If you are looking to grow peonies for cut flowers be sure to check out – 

Spring is perhaps not the ideal transplanting season in general because the heat of summer can be harsh, but the spring season certainly seems to be the best peony shopping season! Check out your local garden center, garden club sales, and even swap a few types with your gardening friends. And after planting, just be sure to keep your peony well mulched, watered, and generally cared-for throughout the year.

How do you plant potted peonies?

Planting peonies in pots/containers requires a very large container with adequate drainage. Be sure the eyes are covered with only one inch to two inches of soil. Water the potted peonies; keep moist – but, let them almost dry out between waterings.  Keep potted peonies protected from deep winter freezing. Frost doesn’t harm planted/potted peony plant roots – it’s the prolonged, arctic blast/deep freezing that may affect potted peonies.

What do peony plants need to thrive?

These easy care perennials don’t need much attention.

  • They grow best in USDA zones 2-8 and can last a lifetime.
  • Well drained soil is a must. 
  • Full sun is great; however, half a day of sun is fine, too. A bit of shade can be beneficial for a longer bloom season. 
  • Plant bare root peonies in the fall – prime peony planting season.
  • Roots are planted with just an inch or two of soil over the eyes (buds).
  • Potted peonies may be transplanted in the fall or spring. 
  • Fertilize in early spring. 
  • Deadhead the spent flowers after bloom.

Check out Easy to Grow Bulbs for some of Our Favorite Peony Varities.

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