NGA Articles: Peony
By: National Gardening Association Editors
Peonies are renowned for their large, colorful, bowl-shaped, flowers and dark green foliage. Once established, these beauties are some of the longest-lived and most reliable garden plants.
About This Plant
Peony varieties with huge, double flowers will be the focal point of the garden when they bloom in early summer. Single-flowered types are more subtle and combine well with other perennials. Flower colors include pink, red, white, and yellow, and the plants grow 18 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. Peonies make an attractive low hedge. However, they can take up to 3 years to mature, and don't perform well in hot summer climates.
Easy care/low maintenance
Good for cut flowers
Select a site with full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Plant container-grown peonies in spring or fall, spacing plants 2 to 3 feet apart. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly. Plant bare-root peonies in late summer or fall, setting the roots so that the buds are no more than two inches below the soil surface. If you plant them deeper, they may fail to bloom.
Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Stake tall varieties to keep them upright. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. The first winter, apply a 4- to 6-inch layer of protective mulch after the ground freezes, to prevent roots from being heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing. Once your peonies are established, annual winter mulching is not necessary. Remove this protective mulch in the spring.
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