|Full sun to partial shade
|Well-drained loamy, sandy or clay soil
|Neutral to slightly alkaline
|Late spring to early summer
|White, pink, red and yellow hues
|Peonies are very long-lived perennials. They make very showy, cut-flower displays. Deer tend to avoid.
Loved by generations of gardeners, peonies put on a colorful show when they bloom in late spring to early summer. The large, fluffy, often fragrant, peony flowers symbolize happiness—and the blooms are sure to delight in the garden and cut-flower displays. The ornamental, lush green foliage stays attractive for months. Peonies are long-lived, low-maintenance perennials that can be planted in mixed perennial beds or grown as a low hedge along a walkway. They enhance landscapes with both their flowers and foliage, and deer tend to avoid them. Read on to learn more about when to plant peonies and how to care for peonies.
Herbaceous Peonies: When people think of peonies, they often think of these popular plants. Herbaceous peonies often grow 3-4 feet tall and bloom in late spring to early summer. The flower types may be single, double, bomb-type or anemone. A few popular varieties include the white-flowered Festiva Maxima Double Peony and the red-flowered Karl Rosenfield Double Peony.
Itoh Peonies: A cross between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies, Itoh peonies often grow 2-3 feet tall. They have sturdy stems and are often very floriferous. The showy yellow Bartzella Itoh Peony is very popular. Itoh peonies are available in a range of flower colors.
Tree Peonies: Often growing 5-7 feet tall, tree peonies are woody perennial shrubs that bloom in mid to late spring, before herbaceous peonies. They are available in a variety of flower colors. Shimadaijin Tree Peony is prized for up to 8-inch, fragrant, reddish-purple blooms and vigorous growth.
Peonies are usually planted in the fall, at least six weeks before the ground freezes. With proper care, they can also be planted in the spring. When planted in the spring, they may take longer to bloom. Because peonies are long-lived and don't like being transplanted, take care in choosing where to plant peonies.
Peonies thrive in areas with long, cold winters and mild summers. They are winter hardy, and most can be grown in zones 3-8. Because they require a chill period, they may not grow well in some Southern areas. To find your hardiness zone, visit our grow zone finder. Peonies grow best in full sun, or six or more hours of direct sunlight daily. They prefer neutral, well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter.
Before planting amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost. This is especially important in clay soils so it can improve drainage. Because peonies need good air circulation, spacing is important. The spacing and depth varies with the type of peonies. Plant the fleshy roots of herbaceous and Itoh peonies so the eyes are no more than 1-2 inches deep. They should be spaced 2-3 feet apart. When planting the larger tree peonies, prepare the soil to a depth of 24 inches. Place the plant in the hole. The place where the branch meets the root system should be even with the soil surface and the woody stem should be above the soil line. Space tree peonies 3-4 feet apart. After planting, water the peonies.
For digging, you'll need a shovel or trowel. While peonies aren't heavy feeders, they often benefit from an all-natural, slow-release fertilizer, such as Van Bourgondien 100% Natural Perennial Food, mixed into the soil at planting time.
While peonies are low-maintenance perennials, following these guidelines will help you grow a vibrant peony display.
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