How to Grow Peonies: Peony Care Tips

Jul 20, 2017
How to Plant Peonies

Share: 

Rate this Post: 

Average: 3.7 (15 votes)

Frost Dates

Enter a Location

One of the most magnificent mainstays of the garden is the common herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora). While September is the preferred time to plant peonies, it’s fine to plant container-grown peonies anytime.

Showy and fragrant, peonies will make excellent cut flowers—and the plants are so long-lived that it is commonly said that peonies will outlive the gardeners who plant them! Even when they are not in bloom their dark green, glossy foliage and shrub-like appearance make them handsome focal points in the garden.

Plant Peonies Any Time

September is the best time to divide or plant bare root peonies since they are dormant in the fall but if you are looking longingly at your neighbor’s peonies and wishing you had some right now, container-grown peonies can be planted at any time.

Many nurseries offer early, midseason, and late blooming varieties, making it possible for you to stretch out the peony season over many weeks. There are 6 flower types to choose from: anemone, single, Japanese, semi-double, double, and bomb. The colors range from pristine white to pink, peach, yellow, magenta, deep reds, and even bi-colors.

spring_2010_026_full_width.jpg

Fragrances vary as well—some plants such as ‘Festiva Maxima’ and ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ have intoxicating rose-like scents while others are lemony or have no scent at all. If fragrance is important to you, give them the sniff test before you buy.

Planting Peonies Properly

  • In choosing a spot for your new peony to grow, make sure it will get lots of light—6 to 8 hours of full sun is best for producing a profusion of flowers but it will still perform well in a location with morning sun and light afternoon shade.
  • Peonies plants will need well-drained, neutral soil away from competing tree roots. This plant will grow to cover an area about 3 feet in diameter so make sure you give it plenty of room. Once planted it can remain undisturbed for many years as long as it is flowering well.
  • Planting depth is critical; if planted too deeply it won’t bloom. When planting a container-grown peony, cover it no deeper than it grew in the pot.
  • Try not to disturb the rootball or damage the feeder roots. A newly planted peony can take up to 3 years to reach its full flowering potential but once established, this plant likes to be left alone.

peonies_001_full_width.jpg

  • Peonies plants are virtually pest-free; deer and rabbits don’t like its bitter taste.

See ants on peonies? Ants love to harvest the sweet sap covering the flowers buds but are harmless and may even keep other insects away.

Supporting Peony Plants

Due to the heavy flowers and brittle stems of the larger flowering varieties, it is best to give your plant some kind of support. Peony rings were invented for just this purpose or you can use a wire tomato cage. Placing the support around the plants early in spring is ideal so you don’t accidently pierce the crown.

flowers_2012_007_full_width.jpg

The plant will grow up through the support and eventually hide the wire.

flowers_2012_010_full_width.jpg

Many of the newer hybrids are being developed with stronger stems to eliminate this problem and single, anemone, or semi-double flowering varieties usually don’t need staking.

If you share my passion for peonies, get out there and enjoy them! Pick lots of of bouquets to perfume the house! Like all good things, peony blossoms won’t last forever and you don’t want to miss a minute!

Learn more about planting peonies.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

After blooming

My parents loved their peonies down in Illinois. I now have several plants. My dad swore one had to put sugar water on the buds so that ants would eat off the green part and allow them to bloom. Also, after they were done blooming he always cut them back for the remainder of the summer. Have you ever heard of this? Do I cut them back just in the fall?

Cutting Back Peonies

It is recommended to cut off dead flowers after they are finished blooming, but we generally leave the foliage alone until fall in order to allow the plant to soak up the summer sun and have plenty of energy for surviving the winter and producing healthy blooms the following year. See our Peony Growing Guide for more tips.

Rain damage

stormy weather took my peonies down how far should I cut them back and when

Mildew looking leaves on my peonies?

Why have my peony leaves have mildew looking residue on them and how do I fix this...will this damage or kill the plant???

Growing peonies

Is it possible to grow peonies in a tropical climate, i.e., Hawaii? If so, where can I get the plants?

Sorry Sally but peonies need

Sorry Sally but peonies need a period of cold in winter to induce dormancy. They grow best in zones 2-8.

Peonies

I have tried to grow these several times. Last year in the almost all day sun area, it came on and had a beautiful display of leaves, but not one single bud. Does it take several years for them to start flowering? I'm told I have a green thumb but this is frustrating. I planted one this year and it is in a really sunny spot on the west end. It is about 4 inches above grown now and is looking off to a good start. Do I need to wait a couple years before I see flowers?

The article said it can take

The article said it can take up to three years to reach full flowering potential. This is my second attempt at peonies, I have yet to see any green new growth at all. I planted from bulbs. I think Texas May just be too hot for them. Good luck!!

Your non-blooming peony may

Your non-blooming peony may be planted too deeply. They need to have the crown no more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Small crowns may take several years to reach blossoming size.

watering Peonies

I moved into a place which has 2 Peonies plants.. They are doing good. But I don't know how much to water them,when it's so hot! ( I live in MT) & not sure how to ready them for winter.. Would like some info on that... And can I plant anything with them ??
Thank you, Lena

Lucky you to move into a

Lucky you to move into a place that has established peonies! If there has been no rain for a couple of weeks give them a good drink but they are drought tolerant plants. To ready them for winter just cut off the dead foliage and dispose of it in case it harbors any disease. That’s it! They are cold hardy into zone 2 and need no special care to survive winter. Many plants are good companions for peonies. Irises, alliums, foxglove, bleeding hearts, columbine, roses, candytuft, sedums, thyme, azaleas, boxwood, and viburnums are just a few that will grow well and look good with your peonies.

Peonies in planter

Hi. I have 2 peonies in a large plastic planter. I am concerned this is their first winter with me in Reno and I wonder if i should bring them into the garage so that the snow or low winter temps (in the teens) will pass through the plastic and freeze the bulbs? Do they need water during the winter?
thank you! Teri

Peonies During Winter

My understanding is that Peonies grow great in Alaska due to the cold cold winters. They love the cold and as a matter of fact, they create their buds during this time and the cold weather helps them create more blooms. So there is no reason you should be concerned about your peonies throughout winter. It's heat it hates.

FREE BEGINNERS GARDEN GUIDE!

+ a 4-season guide to raising chickens!

You will also be subscribed to our Almanac Companion Newsletter

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store