Peonies provide masses of flowers in late spring to early summer and beautiful green foliage throughout the growing season with minimal care. Plus, they'll live for generations. They're excellent for planting in open spaces among shrubs, as a backdrop for low-growing flowers in your perennial bed, along foundations or fences, and even as a low-growing hedge for spring and summer along walks or driveways.
Quick Reference Planting Guide
- Location: Full sun to partial shade.
- Hardiness: Zones 3–8 to -30°F.
- Planting Distance: 2'–3' apart.
- Mature Height: 2'–3' with a similar spread within three years.
- Bloom Time: Late spring to early summer starting the second year after planting.
- To Plant: Dig a hole slightly larger than your peony root. Position the root so that the pink buds (eyes) will be between one and two inches below ground level. If planted too deep, your peonies will not flower. Fill in the hole with soil to the level of the buds, carefully packing soil around the root with your fingers. Be careful not to damage the tender pink buds. Water thoroughly. It'll be a couple of weeks before any growth will appear above the soil. During this early stage, peonies are actively growing and producing healthy roots.
Although peonies do well in even poor soil, they can reach optimum results if you improve your soil as follows:
- Spade or rototill the soil to a depth of 12"–15".
- Mix in a generous 2"–4" layer of dehydrated manure, shredded leaves, garden compost, or peat moss. Whether a soil is poor or rich, regular feeding with a water soluble flower booster every two weeks will provide the ideal conditions for lush new growth and exceptional blooms.
- Watering: If natural rainfall is less than 1" per week, additional watering is recommended. You can even start your winter mulch upon transplanting, as a mulched bed retains moisture and helps keep down the weeds.
- Mulching: For the first winter, a 4"–6" layer of mulch should be placed over your peony bed after the ground has frozen to prevent roots from being heaved out of the ground by freezing and thawing. Be sure to remove this mulch as soon as the danger of late spring frost has past.
- Weeding: A 2"–4" layer of shredded bark or compost is ideal and will also maintain soil temperatures.
- Winterizing: After the first frost of fall blackens the foliage, cut to ground level and discard all foliage. Once your peonies are established, annual winter mulching is not necessary.
- More Information: Once planted, your peonies can be left to grow undisturbed indefinitely. Don’t be disappointed, however, if some of your peonies fail to bloom the first year and have only a few blossoms the second season. When they do bloom, be sure to remove spent flowers to keep a neat and tidy appearance. It usually takes three years for a peony to attain mature blooming size.