Peony Care

Peony Planting and Care Tips for Zones 2, 3, 4 and 5

Peonies love….

drier soil than most plants.

well-drained sites.

sun! 8 hours is great. Corals like some afternoon shade to prevent their delicate shades from fading.

fresh air. Crowding of plants can cause disease.

Peonies don’t like…

soggy soil. Peonies need their soil to dry out between watering to prevent crown rot. Let God’s rain do the work for you. Also consider the watering needs of neighboring plants and sprinkler head locations before you plant. leftovers. Soil, that is. Don’t plant a peony where a peony was before. to be planted too deep or too shallow. See planting instructions below.

Planting your peony in its new home

You will need: a shovel, composted cow manure (one shovelful per root), Milorganite (one cup per root), water, and muscle!

Dig a hole 2’-3’ wide by 18” deep. Place the root in the hole. Lay the handle of your shovel across the hole. Add or remove soil so the eyes of the root are 2” (the width of two of your fingers) below the handle. Intersectional peonies are tagged with a rubber band that can be left on the stem. This rubber band should be even with the bottom of the handle. Remove the root and dig another 6”- 8”. Toss the manure and Milorganite in the hole and put the 6”- 8” of soil back in. Add water and stomp on the dirt to create a firm base. Place the root, eyes pointing up, in the hole and fill in with dirt. Mound the soil to provide drainage. Water and check the depth again. Install a peony hoop to protect your growth next spring.  You’re done!

Preparing your peony for the long winter ahead

If you live in zones 2, 3, or 4: When there is 2” of frost in the ground, cover your peony with 4” of mulch. We recommend loose straw, marsh grass, pine boughs or chopped corn stalks.  Leaves and grass clipping can harbor fungus.  Good news! This is the only autumn you will need to mulch. 

If you live in zone 5: Lucky you! Mulching is not needed.

Whew! We survived the winter. Now what?

Spring Has Arrived!

When tulips first appear or after the last hard frost, carefully remove and discard half of the winter mulch. One week later remove the remaining mulch. Add or delete dirt so the eyes are 2” below the soil level. The rubber band on the intersectionals stem should be at soil level.

Remember that peonies don’t like soggy soil. No watering is required. This is good for the peony because it forces the roots to develop quickly for water and nutrient retrieval.  A strong root system equals a healthy plant!

Share the Beauty

In the third summer, you can cut as many as one-third of the blooms on your plant. At five years, you may cut as many as two-thirds of the blooms. Never cut all the flowers off your plant. Stems placed in warm water mixed with floral preservative can last up to a week. Intersectional peony blooms are especially beautiful cut very short and floated in a shallow dish or fish bowl vase. Optional: You can pinch off all marble-size buds before the plant blooms its first spring.  This will strengthen the root system and produce more blooms the second and third year.

Autumn Routine

After the first few hard frosts, or when the foliage turns brown, cut the stems off to 2” above the ground. Burn the foliage or discard it in a non-recycling compost center. Peony foliage and soil can harbor disease, so you never want to reuse either.

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