Peonies are perennial floral favorites
cultivation dates back to the Sui dynasty in China,
roughly 1400 years ago, and the peony has been a tried and true performer in
the garden ever since. The peony is as much of a classic in North American gardens
as is the Mustang in car collections.
Peonies are one of the earliest flowering shrubs, bursting into bloom in
plants available on the market today fall into one of two categories:
herbaceous or woody, or tree, peonies.
Herbaceous plants are the common garden peony (Paeonia
lactiflora) and are the type most commonly found in
Midwestern and northern growing zones. These perennial shrubs grow
approximately 24” to 30” tall and create a clump of similar size in diameter.
They bloom during mid- to late spring and have glossy deep green leaves tinged
with maroon that
retain an ornamental appearance until the first heavy frost. The tree peony is native to
A well-tended peony plant can grow and bloom for many years. Healthy plants that are over 100 years old have been found in abandoned homesteads and cemeteries, but a little maintenance goes a long way. Fertilizing with a bloom-booster throughout the growing season, removing spent blooms and adding a foliar feeding of micronutrients such as Spray N Grow keeps peonies in blooming condition. Add wood ashes or lime to highly acidic soil, as peonies prefer soil that has a pH close to neutral. Full sun encourages prolific blooming, but peonies can tolerate a little shade, especially in areas that have extremely hot summers.
Divide the plants every 5 or 6 years. Not only does this enhance the plant’s blooming capacity, it also helps keep the plant contained. Peony plants can spread and achieve a diameter close to 3 feet, so dividing the plants every 5 years or so keeps the plant within the confines of the garden bed. Be sure each division has at least three "eyes." These are the areas on the root that send up green shoots. Replant the divisions in late summer (August) and fall, and plant only 2" deep. If roots are positioned any deeper the plant will send up shoots but fail to flower. In the fall, cut stalks down to a height of 2" and mulch plants well. Burn spent foliage if peonies are growing in heavy clay soil to avoid harboring fungal diseases.
peonies are lovely, but the large, double varieties are fantastic for flower
arranging. These include the heirloom varieties, Festiva
Maxima (white with pink flecks) and
Look for peony plants in local nurseries, online or at garden club plant sales from August through October.