All about peonies
Table of Contents
- Written by Holly Hughes on April 05, 2022
One of the brightest and most eye-catching spring flowers, peonies are renowned not only for their beauty and symbolic representation of good fortune and prosperity but also their resilience.
When planted properly, these hardy perennials can bloom for a century with the right care and attention.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about gardening with peonies, from the best soil to use to top tips for planting and placement so that you can enjoy these full and lustrous flowers year after year!
The best garden use for peonies
One of the most wonderful things about peonies is their versatility. With three main varieties to choose from - herbaceous (bush), tree and Itoh (intersectional) – there are many ways to incorporate the plant into your garden.
Given the structure they provide as bushes and trees, this plant isn’t just beautiful, it can be functional too, working as a sensational border plant in a flower bed or as the centerpiece of a garden as a flowering tree.
Here’s our breakdown of the best garden use for each variety.
This low maintenance plant is perfect as one of the showstoppers in your spring garden. It is deciduous and dies off when winter comes so choose a spot where it can take front and center stage. Bear in mind that this variety can flourish for up to 50 years in the same spot so, to get the best garden use for it, pick a place that will consistently bring you joy over the years!
Blooming earlier than the other varieties, the peony tree can grow up to 6 feet tall. Keeping its frame throughout the winter and producing larger flowers than other varieties, this can make an excellent framing device for your garden, or provide a spring centerpiece around which you plant your other annuals and perennials.
Itoh peonies are a cross between tree and herbaceous varieties and make a great border for gardens due to the fact they are lower in height than other blooms and make such a pretty – but resilient – boundary marker.
The best place to plant peonies
Placement is everything when it comes to successfully growing peonies.
Despite the resilience of this plant and its ability to withstand decades of weather, climate and natural conditions and continue flourishing, they are still sensitive to the environment they’re planted in. They do not transplant well and react badly to disturbance so ensuring you place them in a spot that supports ideal peony growing conditions is crucial to their success.
The best place to plant these blooms is in a position that gets full sun and that has rich soil that can drain well. Planting in waterlogged soil or too much shade will impede the growth of your plant and prevent it from producing the full and robust flowers we all know and love so well.
The best time to plant peony bulbs
The peony flowering time is from late spring through early summer, depending on the kind of variety you choose to grow and your location. In order to get the most of their blooming period, the best time to plant peony bulbs is in the autumn. This allows the shrub to establish a strong roots system which will ensure a breathtaking display of bright flowers come springtime.
To truly get the most from these plants, be sure to check your local nursery for early, midseason, and late blooming varieties so you can enjoy their flowering for as long as possible!
The best soil for peonies
The best soil for peony plants is one that is neutral or slightly alkaline. It should be rich in organic matter and well-draining as a waterlogged soil can cause your shrub to develop botrytis, which is the most serious disease that affects these plants.
If you feel your soil might be lacking in rich nutrients, add an organic fertilizer that is slow releasing for improved soil quality.
How much sun do peonies need?
One of the most common questions asked about caring for peonies is ‘can peonies grow in shade?’ While most varieties can grow in partial shade – and indeed, some rarer Asian woodland species actually require some shade – most need a minimum of six hours of full sun to bloom to their best.
Herbaceous varieties in particular thrive with a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight. So, one of the key factors when planting your peonies is to make sure they are in a sunny position guaranteed to get at least five hours of full sun a day.
How to care for peonies
Once you have been careful in your planting, it becomes easy to care for peonies. Once they are in rich, well-drained soil, have good air circulation and access to full sunlight, they can be left to do their thing.
The one thing to protect against is botrytis – a fungal disease that can occur when the weather is particularly cold and inclement or the plant is weak. Making sure your plant has full sun, good air circulation around it, and nourishing, drained soil is the best way to do this.
And if it’s not possible for you to begin growing peonies in your garden, don’t worry! You can still enjoy their poofy blooms by ordering a bouquet of them to your home. Just use one of these amazing flower delivery services to find a peony-filled arrangement sure to put a spring in your step.
And for a subscription service, try:
Frequently Asked Questions About Peonies
Are peonies annuals?
No, while annual plants only survive one flowering season, peonies are different and fall into the perennials category. This means they return year after year with their full blooms and bright colors to enliven your garden.
Are peonies in need of full sun?
As outlined above, these plants delight in full sunlight with herbaceous varieties doing best in eight hours of direct light at least. Most varieties will thrive on five to six hours per day and while peonies can still grow in areas of partial shade, they will not flower as easily as when in full sunlight.
Are peonies bulbs?
Yes, these shrubs begin life as bulbs. They sprout from tubers which hold the necessary nutrients for peonies to regrow year on year in bulb-like structures.
How big do peony plants get?
The size peonies can grow to largely depends on what variety you plant. Most herbaceous varieties grow to a height of up to three feet and a width of roughly one to two feet. Tree species, however, grow anywhere between 4 to 7 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide.
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