The peony is outrageously beautiful in bloom in springtime—with lush foliage all summer long. Here’s how to grow peonies and get the best peony flowers in your garden.
Peony flowers are perennials that come back every spring to take your breath away. The plants may live longer than you do—some have been known to thrive for 100 years. Peony plants require little maintenance as long as they are planted properly and establish themselves; they do, however, require special care when transplanting.
Peonies are hardy to Zone 3 and grow well as far south as Zones 7 and 8. In most of the country, the rules for success are simply full sun and well-drained soil. Peonies even relish cold winters, because they need chilling for bud formation.
When to Plant Peonies
● Plant peonies in the fall: in late September and October in most of the country, and even later in the South. (If you must move an established plant, this is the time.)
● Peonies should be settled into place before the first hard frost. Spring-planted peonies just don’t do as well, experts agree; they generally lag about a year behind those planted in the fall.
How to Plant Peonies
● Grow peonies in deep, fertile, humus-rich, moist soil that drains well. Soil pH should be neutral.
● The soil will benefit from the addition of organic material in the planting hole. If the soil is heavy or very sandy, enrich it with compost. Incorporate about 1 cup of bonemeal into the soil. Tamp soil firmly. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.
● Peonies are not fussy, but choose your location wisely, as they resent disturbance. Provide shelter from strong winds. Plant away from trees or shrubs as peonies don’t like to compete for food and moisture. Space them three to four feet apart for good air circulation.
● Peonies like full sun, and though they can manage with half a day, they bloom best in a sunny spot.
● Peonies are usually sold as bare-root tubers with three to five eyes, divisions of a three- or four-year-old plant.
● Dig a generous-sized hole, about two feet deep and two feet across in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. If the soil is heavy or very sandy, enrich it with compost. Incorporate about one cup of bonemeal into the soil. Tamp it firmly.
● Set the root so the eyes face upward on top of the firmed soil, placing the root just 2 inches below the soil surface. (In southern states, choose early-blooming varieties, plant them about an inch deep, and provide some shade.)
● Don’t plant too deep! In most of the country, the peony’s eyes (buds) should be no deeper than 1-½ to 2 inches below the soil line.
● Then, backfill the hole, taking care that the soil doesn’t settle and bury the root deeper than 2 inches.
● Water thoroughly and Spare the fertilizer. Work the soil well before you plant, mixing in a little fertilizer, and that should be enough.