How to Grow Peonies

how to grow peonieshow to grow peonies

Growing Peonies to Welcome Summer

Peonies are one of our most beautiful and cherished garden plants. Their huge luscious blooms—typically in shades of red, pink, white, and even sometimes yellow— are a triumph in early summer gardens.

Peonies are long-time garden favorites, and over the years, plant breeders have produced a staggering array of cultivars. Many have mesmerizing scents. Single peonies are simple and sophistocated. Semi-double peonies have beautiful layered petals, without hiding the colorful stames inside. Double peonies are packed with lush petals - some can have more than 100 petals on each bloom! Fancy Japanese Syyle or Anemone peonies have a combination of broad outer petals around a mass of thin petaloids. 

And best of all, given fertile soil, good air circulation, and adequate sunlight, peonies are both easy to grow and extremely long-lived.

garden of peoniesgarden of peonies

This photo shows a mature collection of double peonies in white, pink, deep fuscia, and red. Shop our double peony varieties and double peony collections!

When & Where to Plant Peonies

Light: Herbaceous perennial peonies should be located where they will receive at least 6 hours of sun a day. Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) and Itoh hybrid peonies will do best in full sun, but they can also take partial shade.

Soil: Choose a location where the soil will be consistently moist throughout the season, but which does not get waterlogged. Peonies are long-living, however, once planted, they prefer not being moved. So, before you plant, take time to prepare the soil. Dig out any existing weeds and their roots, and turn in aged compost or leaf mold throughout the top six inches of the planting area.

Spacing: Space your new peony roots a minimum of 3 feet apart. Peonies will grow into strong, full plants. Eventually most peonies will grow to three to four feet in diameter, so be sure to choose a spot where each plant will have plent of room to mature and grow to full size.

Fall Planting: Be sure to plant your peonies at least one month before the ground in your area will freeze solid. This will give the roots enough time to get established in their new location prior to the onset of winter. Fall planting will allow for strong growth the following summer. 

Spring Planting: You can also plant peonies in early spring; just remember to water your new plants weekly throughout the first summer, unless you experience adequate rainfall. Spring planting typically results in a slower growth in the first summer season. 

Planting Tips: Look for the pinkish buds or ‘eyes’ on the brown fleshy roots. Since these will eventually give rise to the flower stalks, be sure to plant the ‘eyes’ facing upwards.
  • If you live in a cold climate, position the ‘eyes’ between one and two inches below the surface of the soil and the rest of the root angled slightly downwards into the amended soil.
  • If you live in a warmer climate the ‘eyes’ should be an inch or even less below the surface of the soil, allowing them to maximize their exposure to cold winter temps.  
holding peony bare rootholding peony bare root

Identify the pink, fleshy buds, or 'eyes' on your peony bare roots before planting.

planting the barerootplanting the bareroot

With the 'eyes facing the sky', plant your peonies 1-2" below the surface of the soil.

itoh peony sproutingitoh peony sprouting

This Itoh Peony has sprouted growth from its 'eyes', which are no longer dormant.

pressing soilpressing soil

The developed 'eyes' of this Itoh Peony are left exposed, above the soil line.

How to Grow Peonies Throughout the Season

Growth Habit: While the height varies with each variety, most peony flowers are around 36 inches high, and the foliage is around 30 inches high.

Staking: Most peonies have lush, heavy flowers, so they will benefit from staking to prevent their stalks from breaking under the weight of the heavy flowers.

  • Metal ‘peony rings’ offer an adjustable height. In early spring, position one ring over each plant so that the foliage and flower stalks will grow up through the supports. Adjust the height as the plant grows so that the flower stalks are supported.
  • You can also make your own support system, using garden twine and metal or bamboo stakes. First, firmly position the stakes in the ground outside emerging peony stalks. Next, run the twine around the stakes to create a circle. Then, run the twine diagonally across the circle of stakes to create a grid, which will support the stems as they grow.

Watering: Unless you live in a very dry climate or are going through a dry spell, your peonies should not require regular watering once they are established. For peonies that are recently transplanted, be sure to water occasionally to help support their growing root system. Light, frequent watering at first will help budding roots, and after a few weeks, deeper and less frequent watering will help roots to reach deep for water.

Fertilizing: The occasional light application of a slow-release organic fertilizer will keep you peonies vigorous for many years to come. Sprinkle a little organic fertilizer around the root zone in spring.

Mulching: When planting, mulch the whole area lightly, with no more than an inch of mulch covering the eyes. Avoid planting your peony roots too deeply, or flowering will be restricted. For established peonies, use a light layer of bark mulch over the outer root zone.

Trimming & Pruning: Remove all spent flower heads. If any stems turn black during the summer this can be a sign of fungal disease. Cut off the diseased portions and dispose of separately—do not add to your compost pile.

How to Care for Peonies at the End of the Season

Overwintering: Sprinkle about an inch of chopped leaves over the roots as a winter mulch. 

Dividing & Transplanting: Mature peonies prefer not to be relocated. Unless you need to thin them out, you do not need to lift and divide your peonies. If necessary, peonies can be divided in early fall and replanted according to the guidelines above.

Pests & Disease: Various fungal blights, especially Botrytis, can potentially attack peony plants. To avoid fungal diseases, plant your herbaceous peonies in full sun where there is good air circulation and avoid overhead watering. To avoid spreading fungal diseases, do not dispose of spent peony leaves into your compost bin.

Learn More

With so many gorgeous peony varieties available, how will you know which is right for your garden? We'll help you choose the best peony for your garden, so you can enjoy your long-living peonies for years to come.

With their gorgeous lush petals and sweet fragrance, it's hard not to fall in love! Read more about the history and varieties of Peonies. 

Shop Peonies

  1. Pink Peony Sarah Bernhardt, Paeonia lactiflora

    'Sarah Bernhardt' is a beloved Peony with large double flowers in fresh, pastel pink. Introduced in 1906, this longtime favorite blooms dependably year after year and presents a heal...

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    Sarah Bernhardt Peony Sarah Bernhardt Double Peony Paeonia lactiflora Sarah Bernhardt
    As low as $16.98 Sale $11.04
    Per Bag of 1
    'Sarah Bernhardt' is a beloved Peony with large double flowers in fresh, pastel pink. Introduced in 1906, this longtime favorite blooms dependably year after year and presents a healthy amount of emerald green foliage to add interest to the garden throughout the season. Also known for its fragrance, 'Sarah Bernhardt' makes a great cut flower - try it in arrangements or float it all by itself in a simple bowl. Like all peonies, this one is deer resistant, cold hardy and extremely long-lived. (Paeonia lactiflora)
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  2. Red and Pink and White Peony Cotton Candy Mix, Paeonia lactiflora, Peony

    Cotton Candy Peony Mix is the perfect choice for peony lovers that just can’t decide! This selection of classic colors includes one each of: 'Sarah Bernhardt' (pink), 'Karl Rosen...

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    Cotton Candy Peony Mix Cotton Candy Double Peony Mix Paeonia lactiflora Cotton Candy Mix
    As low as $39.98 Sale $25.99
    Per Bag of 3
    Cotton Candy Peony Mix is the perfect choice for peony lovers that just can’t decide! This selection of classic colors includes one each of: 'Sarah Bernhardt' (pink), 'Karl Rosenfield' (red), and 'Shirley Temple' (white). Each tried and true variety has impressive 6-8” wide flowers, perfect for summer arrangements and wedding bouquets. Peonies are long-lived plants that hold their foliage beautifully after their bloom season has passed. (Paeonia lactiflora)
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  3. Award Winning Peony Collection

    Three American Peony Society 'Gold Medal' winners make up this champion collection of the best-of-the-best peonies! 'Coral Charm' has pastel pink petals and a frilly gold center, 'P...

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    Award Winning Peony Collection
    $127.98 Sale $83.17
    Per Collection of 3
    Three American Peony Society 'Gold Medal' winners make up this champion collection of the best-of-the-best peonies! 'Coral Charm' has pastel pink petals and a frilly gold center, 'Pink Hawaiian Coral' flowers in a saturated rosy-orange, and 'Canary Brilliants' Itoh peony brings semi-double blooms of creamy yellow to the garden. All are fragrant and deer resistant.
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  4. Fragrant Peony Collection

    While many peonies are known for their pleasing scent, the Fragrant Peony Collection includes the sweetest smelling varieties we know! 'Festiva Maxima' with its double-white blooms d...

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    Fragrant Peony Collection
    $111.98 Sale $72.77
    Per Collection of 3
    While many peonies are known for their pleasing scent, the Fragrant Peony Collection includes the sweetest smelling varieties we know! 'Festiva Maxima' with its double-white blooms dashed with crimson smells divine. 'Bartzella', an Itoh hybrid, is famous for its lemon-scented flowers. And 'Pink Hawaiian Coral' is an award-winning, semi-double bloomer noted for its fragrance and notched petals. Plant these where you can smell them!
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  5. Red Peony Red Magic, Paeonia lactiflora, Peony

    'Red Magic' peony offers huge blooms made up of a mass of twisted, feathered, deep red petals for a lavish display. Almost artichoke-like in presentation, the petals slim to a narrow...

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    Red Magic Peony Garden Peony Red Magic, Double Peony Paeonia lactiflora Red Magic
    $28.98 Sale $18.84
    Per Bag of 1
    'Red Magic' peony offers huge blooms made up of a mass of twisted, feathered, deep red petals for a lavish display. Almost artichoke-like in presentation, the petals slim to a narrower shape and darken to a deeper crimson as they near the center. Amazing in the garden, stunning in bouquets. (Paeonia lactiflora)
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  6. Shirley Temple Peony

    ‘Shirley Temple’ shines with white double blooms sporting hints of blush pink. As the season progresses the silky petals fade to ivory white. Named for the famous child star of H...

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    Shirley Temple Peony Garden Peony Shirley Temple, Double Peony Paeonia lactiflora Shirley Temple
    $17.98 Sale $11.69
    Per Bag of 1
    ‘Shirley Temple’ shines with white double blooms sporting hints of blush pink. As the season progresses the silky petals fade to ivory white. Named for the famous child star of Hollywood in the 1940s, ‘Shirley Temple’ is a spectacle to behold and a favorite among peony-lovers. A mid-season peony that is sure to steal the stage. (Paeonia lactiflora)
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  7. Red Itoh Peony Scarlet Heaven, Paeonia Itoh

    'Scarlet Heaven' Itoh Peony has striking, deep scarlet-red petals that surround golden yellow centers on enormous single flowers. The 7 to 9 inch blooms arrive in late spring and are...

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    Scarlet Heaven Itoh Peony Scarlet Heaven Itoh Peony, Intersectional Peony Paeonia (Intersectional hybrid) Scarlet Heaven
    $73.98 Sale $48.09
    Per Bag of 1
    'Scarlet Heaven' Itoh Peony has striking, deep scarlet-red petals that surround golden yellow centers on enormous single flowers. The 7 to 9 inch blooms arrive in late spring and are lightly fragrant. Cold hardy and resistant to disease, 'Scarlet Heaven' does not require staking and is resistant to both deer and rabbits. (Paeonia Itoh)
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  8. Yellow Itoh Peony Bartzella, Paeonia

    'Bartzella' Itoh Peony brings a rare presentation to the peony world, with charming yellow blooms streaked crimson red at center. Each unusual bloom carries a sweet, citrusy fragranc...

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    Bartzella Itoh Peony Bartzella Itoh Peony, Intersectional Peony Paeonia (Intersectional hybrid) Bartzella
    $49.98 Sale $32.49
    Per Bag of 1
    'Bartzella' Itoh Peony brings a rare presentation to the peony world, with charming yellow blooms streaked crimson red at center. Each unusual bloom carries a sweet, citrusy fragrance and measures up to 8 inches across. Flowering in late spring, 'Bartzella' is both deer and rabbit-resistant and lasts for an impressive time when cut for arrangements. (Paeonia Itoh)
    Learn More

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