Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tips on Planting Peonies

Peonies (herbaceous types) are old-fashioned perennial favorites garnering new attention from 21st century gardeners. Their gorgeous spring flowers stand tall above the lush shrubbery growth.

This fall, plant dormant bare-root divisions of herbaceous peonies purchased from a mail-order nursery or a nearby garden center. Each division must exhibit 3 to 5 eyes (buds). Space plants a minimum of three feet apart.

Good air circulation around plants is important to prevent potential foliar and flower diseases. Avoid windy areas and shelter plants from harsh summer sun and heat in warmer climates (USDA zones 7-9).

Peonies thrive in gardens for 20 or more years. Select a sunny spot with well-drained garden soil and enrich with generous amounts of compost or well-rotted manure. A soil pH between 6 and 7 is ideal. Feed peonies with a slow release fertilizer in early spring the same as you would nourish flowering shrubs.

A critical digging step is the planting depth. Do not cover the growing eyes with more than 1 inch of soil. Setting the new plant too deep may delay or even prevent flowering. Water the newly planted peonies and cover the bed with 2-3 inches of loose ground up leaves or bark mulch. Likely, the peonies will bloom next spring and many years thereafter.

Tree peony culture will be discussed in a future blog.

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