Peony – Part 1

— Written By Shannon Newton and last updated by
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Peony is a very beautiful long-lived plant. Select carefully and plant in a permanent location in September. Much like planting a tree, peonies become a permanent fixture in your garden. This allows the root system to develop and be ready for spring growth. Don’t expect flowers until the third year.

If you already have peonies in your garden, you know they are easy to grow and require minimal care. Do not fertilize until plants have been in the ground for about 5 years. Check your soil pH with a soil test and add lime as needed. Mulch around the plants to help keep the roots cool in our hot summers. Compost and bone meal are good supplements for your peony plants.

As peony’s grow in the spring, be sure to provide some type of support for the foliage and leaves, this will keep them from falling to the ground. As the flowers begin to fade, remove the spent flowers and place in the compost bin. This will minimize disease problems.

If you are thinking about adding peonies to your garden, understanding their growth habit and flower type are good ways to begin selecting varieties for your landscape. There are three (3) basic types of peonies:

Peonia lactiflora Herbaceous peonies grow to be about 1 ½ to 2 feet tall and wide. They typically bloom in late April with a variety of colors in the white, pink and red ranges. Many are double flowers. Flowers can be used a cut flowers or simply enjoyed in the garden.

Paeonia suffruticosa Tree peonies or called Mudan in China are grafted onto herbaceous root stock. As with all peonies these are long-lived deciduous woody shrubs that will grow in USDA zones 4-9. Mature plants can have over 50, 8-10” flowers that bloom over a two week period.

Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peonies

Itoh peonies are named for the Japanese nurseryman Toichi Itoh was the first to succeed in hybridizing tree peonies with herbaceous peonies in the 1960s.

The leaves and flower forms resemble those of tree peonies, while the growth habit is similar to that of herbaceous peonies. Flowers are held upright on top of the bush. This makes them different in that they don’t require any kind of support. In the fall, after the frost, intersectional peonies are cut back to ground level, and the plants come back larger each spring. 

To make things really interesting, there are quite a few types of flowers. From single to bomb, the choices are extensive. Spend some time investigating peonies. Before you know it, late summer will be here and time to buy peonies will be upon us.

PART TWO: Planting your peonies from the ground up, coming in August.