How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Peony Flowers
The peony is outrageously beautiful in bloom with the fattest, most scrumptious flowers and lush green foliage. Enjoy breathtaking flowers from spring to summer. See how to plant, grow, and care for peonies.
Peonies are perennials that come back every year to take your breath away. In fact, the plants may live longer than you do—some have been known to thrive for at least 100 years.
Peonies bloom from late spring through early summer, depending on your location and the variety of peonies you’re growing.
Many nurseries offer early, midseason, and late blooming varieties, making it possible for you to stretch out the peony season over many weeks and enjoy those lovely blooms for as long as possible!
Peonies are hardy to Zone 3 and grow well as far south as Zones 7 and 8. In most of the U.S., the rules for success are simple: provide full sun and well-drained soil. Peonies even relish cold winters, because they need chilling for bud formation.
There are six peony flower types to choose from anemone, single, Japanese, semi-double, double, and bomb. Fragrances vary as well—some plants such as ‘Festiva Maxima’ and ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ have intoxicating rose-like scents while others are lemony or have no scent at all.
Peonies make fine sentinels lining walkways or a lovely low hedge. After its stunning bloom, the peony’s bushy clump of handsome glossy green leaves lasts all summer, and then turns purplish-red or gold in the fall, as stately and dignified as any flowering shrub.
In mixed borders, peonies bloom with columbines, baptisias, and veronicas, and combine well with irises and roses. Plant white peonies with yellow irises and a froth of forget-me-nots; set off pink peonies with blue Nepeta or violets.
Peonies are not too fussy but choose your location wisely, as they resent disturbance and do not transplant well.
Peonies like full sun, and though they can manage with half a day, they bloom best in a sunny spot that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day.
Provide shelter from strong winds, as peonies’ large blooms can make them top-heavy. (Use stakes to hold them up, if necessary.) Don’t plant too close to trees or shrubs, as peonies don’t like to compete for food, light, and moisture.
Grow peonies in deep, fertile, humus-rich, moist soil that drains well. Soil pH should be neutral.
Peony plants require little maintenance as long as they are planted properly and establish themselves. Note, however, that they do not respond well to transplanting, so you should plan your planting site accordingly.
Like children, young peonies take time to develop. They usually need a few years to establish themselves, bloom, and grow. And soon enough, they venture out on their own, mature and well-adjusted… Wait, no, that’s just children.
Peonies thrive on benign neglect. Unlike most perennials, they don’t need to be dug and divided every few years.
Peonies bloom between late spring and early summer, but you can plan your garden for a successive display of flowers from mid-May to late June by planting a selection of varieties. Here are some choices:
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