How 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.
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.
- 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.
Identify the pink, fleshy buds, or 'eyes' on your peony bare roots before planting.
With the 'eyes facing the sky', plant your peonies 1-2" below the surface of the soil.
This Itoh Peony has sprouted growth from its 'eyes', which are no longer dormant.
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.
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.
‘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 s...Learn More
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‚ (pi...Learn MoreCotton Candy Peony Mix Cotton Candy Double Peony Mix Paeonia lactiflora Cotton Candy MixAs low as $25.32Per Collection of 3
‘Festiva Maxima’ has been a garden favorite for more than 150 years! Large white flowers, handsome foliage, and enchanting fragrance are the hallmarks of this beloved ear...Learn More
‘Karl Rosenfield’ is a garden classic. Widely considered one of the best red double peonies, this mid-season variety boasts huge, cherry-red blooms that are showstoppers ...Learn MoreKarl Rosenfield Peony Garden Peony Karl Rosenfield, Double Peony Paeonia lactiflora Karl Rosenfield$17.32 Sale $13.86Per 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 pre...Learn MoreSarah Bernhardt Peony Sarah Bernhardt Double Peony Paeonia lactiflora Sarah BernhardtAs low as $13.32 Sale $12.65Per Bag of 1
Peony Coral Sunset buds open up in early spring as deep, rose-coral and slowly fade to yellow as the season progresses. The semi-double blooms are fabulously-fragrant and make gorgeo...Learn More
Canary Brilliants Itoh Peony has creamy yellow double blooms with delicate rose centers. Lightly fragrant, this Itoh peony can have 30-50 blooms per season once established. Perfect ...Learn More
‚Pink Hawaiian Coral‚ Peony lives up to its name with semi-double blooms that arrive in a sunset of coral, peach, and melon shades in early summer. Very fragrant and pack...Learn More
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