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How To Grow Peonies

Who doesn’t love peonies? These frilly, romantic, and brilliantly colored blooms are the darling of the spring garden, with their lush green foliage remaining throughout the summer. And while peonies have a (somewhat) deserved reputation for being a bit fussy, they are also fairly low maintenance once they’re established.
Ready to add some wild romance to your garden? Peony planting season will be shortly upon us, so read these tips and get your hand trowels and shovels ready!

Peony Growing Requirements:

Peonies are easy to grow as long as they get what they want. While that sounds contradictory, it’s not really. Here’s the deal: Plant them properly and at the right time and under the right conditions, and you’ll have lush peonies for many years in your garden, requiring little dividing.
• Sun: Full sun is best, especially when planted in the South.
• Soil: Rich, deep, and well-drained soil with a neutral pH
• Water: Immediately after planting, and every 2 weeks after established
• Hardiness Zones: 3-7/8 (peonies need winter chill to set flower buds)

How to Plant Peonies:

Peonies are sold as bare root tubers with 3-5 eyes or bud — here’s how to plant them for health and vigor:

  1. Choose your location according to the requirement above, and amend your soil before or at planting time.
  2. Aim for 3-4’ in between plants. They will seem small at first, and grow slowly, but this space is necessary for plant health down the road.
  3. Dig a geneous hole, about 2’ x 2’. This hole depth is to ensure loose soil — you will not be planting the tuber 2’ deep (keep reading).
  4. Place a mound of soil in the hole and place your tuber, eyes facing up, on the top of the mound about 2” below the surrounding soil surface.
  5. Gently backfill the hole, being careful to not allow the tuber to settle farther down than 2” below the soil surface.
  6. Water in gently and thoroughly.
bowl of beauty peony
Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)

Peony Tips:

Plants this gorgeous need a little extra care from time to time, but it’s all worth it when you see the unbelievably gorgeous blooms. Here’s what you need to know to keep them (and you) happy:

  • Be patient. Peonies take a couple of years to bloom after they are planted. (When you start to feel impatient, just remind yourself that beauty like this does not happen overnight.)
  • Go easy on the fertilizer. Amend the soil before planting, and then afterwards, you should only fertilize every couple of years. Yes, you read that right!
  • Stake them so they don’t fall over. Peonies have relatively weak stems in relation to the large bloom size, so sometimes the stems fall over. Help them out by using 3-legged rings or tomato cages to support them as they grow.
  • Deadhead regularly. Remove those blooms once they are done with their performance.
  • Don’t overmulch. If you live in a very cold climate, mulch very lightly the first winter after planting, but remove the mulch in the spring.
  • Resist transplanting. They just don’t like it. If you must transplant, do it when they are dormant in late fall or winter.

Popular Peony Varieties:

The intriguing thing about peonies is that there is such a wide range of characteristics. Some are heavily scented, some lightly scented, while others have no scent at all. There are early, mid-season, and late blooming varieties so you can have a long peony performance in your garden. And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, there are six dramatic peony types to choose from: single, double, semi-double, bomb, Japanese, and anemone.

So, all that being said, here are some stunning varieties to try in your garden:

  • Bowl of Beauty: This anemone-style peony has stronger stems than most, with soft pink petals and white center stamens. It’s an early bloomer, too, gracing the garden before many other varieties.
  • Fern Leaf: Another early season bloomer, Fern Leaf offers intense red petals in a fully double form — and the slender foliage shines on long after the flowers fade.
  • America: Here’s another bright red peony, but this one’s a single form with a creamy center — plus, it’s an early to mid-season bloomer, filling in that middle part of the season where there may be gaps.
  • Gay Paree: Looking for a two-toned mid-season beauty? Gay Paree might be your ideal peony with its bold raspberry pink petals surrounding a rounded and frilly creamy white center.
  • Pillow Talk: Strong stems topped with double frilly pink petals make this mid to late-season peony a standout.
  • Elsa Sass: This lovely peony shines in the late season garden with its double petals in brilliant white and light fragrance.


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White peony with text
Bright pink peonies with text
1 Comment
  • Nancy Lawson
    Posted at 12:53h, 19 September Reply

    Good to know about the transplanting. Thank you for the excellent tips.

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