● If your soil is poor, the time to apply fertilizer (bonemeal, compost, or well-rotted manure) is early summer, after the peonies have bloomed and you have deadheaded. Don’t fertilize more than every few years.
● Help the stems. If peonies have any structural weakness, it is their stems, which are sometimes not strong enough to support their gigantic blossoms. Consider three-legged metal peony rings that allow the plant to grow through the center of the rings.
● Deadhead peony blossoms as soon as they begin to fade, cutting to a strong leaf so that the stem doesn’t stick out of the foliage. Cut the foliage to the ground in the fall to avoid any overwintering disease.
● Don’t smother peonies with mulch. Where cold temperatures are severe, for the first winter after planting you can mulch VERY loosely with pine needles or shredded bark. Remove mulch in the spring.
Pests and Diseases
Peonies are generally very hardy. They are susceptible to Verticillium wilt, ringspot virus, tip blight, stem rot, Botrytis blight, leaf blotch, Japanese beetle, and nematodes.
Many gardeners wonder why so many ants crawl on the peony buds. They are eating nectar in exchange for attacking bud-eating pests. Never spray the ants; they’re helping you nurture peonies and actually help them to bloom!
So if you enjoy peonies like I do, please share your photos with me on instagram, pinterest and facebook…I love sharing my love of gardening and hope you will, too!