Commonly Asked Peony Questions:
When is the Best Time to Plant Bare Root Peonies?
The end of August and before the middle of October, after dormant buds are completely formed.
What is a Bare Root Peony?
A peony plant that is dug up in the fall and divided (for propagation purposes), has no soil attached to it and is, therefore, called a bare root peony division.
Will My Peonies Bloom the First Year?
Unlike annuals, peonies take 3 - 4 years to become a fully established blooming plant. The first year of growth is focused on root production and becoming established in the garden. If blooms occur the first year, they may be smaller and not of the typical form or color of a mature planting. In fact, some peonies may not even bloom the first year or second year. Patience will be greatly rewarded with an abundance of flowers by the third year. The old adage for peonies is "The First Year They Sleep, The Second Year They Creep and the Third Year They Leap."
Why are My Peonies Not Blooming?
There are many reasons peonies fail to bloom other than "They were planted too deep". Many questions should be asked before a logical conclusion can be drawn as to why a plant has failed to bloom.
How long has the plant been in the site?
Young plants may not have an adequate root system with sufficient food reserves to produce a bloom.
How Big Was the Root that Was Planted?
Imported roots are much smaller than most domestically grown plants. Smaller roots may require a few more years of growth to produce an adequate root system with sufficient food reserves to produce a bloom. A good peony root should have a minimum of three to five 'eyes' (dormant buds) for growth and at least three corresponding roots measuring four to six inches in length and one inch in thickness.
Is the Peony Bush Growing in Full Sun?
Many times a peony was planted at the same time as the rest of the landscaped yard and is now being shaded by trees that have grown much larger. Peonies need a minimum of eight hours of sunlight to bloom successfully.
Was it a Wet Spring?
Tender new growth with developing flower buds can be attacked by a fungus in the spring during long periods of rain and high humidity. Signs of this disease appear on immature flower buds about the size of a pea; flower buds appear brown or blackened on tips of new growth and fail to develop. First and second year plantings are most susceptible to this disease. Cutting down and removing peony foliage in the fall is still the best preventative measure for disease control.
How Deep Did You Plant the Peony Root?
Peonies produce dormant buds (called 'eyes') at the base of each stem in August. These dormant 'eyes' produce a peony bush the following spring and should be planted 1 1/2" to 2" below the soil surface. If in doubt about the planting depth of an established bush, carefully scrape the soil around a few stems in the fall to check the depth of the young 'eyes' at the base of each stem. It is rare for a peony bush to be planted too deep and be the reason for lack of blooms; in our fields we are planting thousands of roots each fall without measuring planting depth as we drop them into a furrow. Roots have a tendency to self-correct their planting depth by producing dormant eyes at the proper depth as they mature. Too often quick advice is given and peonies are dug up and replanted without knowing that disturbed peonies are often set back, with blooms delayed again and again. Peonies do best if undisturbed once planted.
Do Peonies Ever Have to be Divided?
Peonies are one of the longest lived perennials. It is not uncommon for peonies to live fifty to one hundred years without ever having to be divided, provided they are grown in rich organic soil with good drainage and a site with eight or more hours of sunlight.
Are All Peonies Fragrant?
Unfortunately, not all peonies are fragrant. Pink and white flowering varieties are usually more fragrant than red blooming ones. Hybrid varieties typically do not have fragrance except for the yellow Itoh (Intersectional) Hybrids.
Are Ants Needed to Open Blossoms?
This is a myth that has been perpetuated for generations with no foundation. Ants are attracted to the sugar on the flower buds just as they are attracted to sweets at a picnic. We have very few ants in our fields, but have an abundance of blooms every year.
When is the Best Time to Cut Peonies for Arrangements?
In the early morning before buds expand and open. Cut stems when the flower bud feels soft to the touch, in the 'marshmallow' stage. Double flowering varieties should be cut when about one quarter open. The further open the bloom the shorter the vase life they will have.
Why do my Peony Plants Fall Over After a Rain?
This problem is usually associated with double flowering varieties after a heavy rain. Large blooms simply capture the rain and become burdened with the extra weight and fall over. More compact varieties with thick stems as well as single and Japanese forms hold up better during rain. Peonies planted in semi-shady locations also develop thinner and weaker stems than plants grown in full sun.
Do Peonies Need to be Mulched for Winter Protection?
We advise that first year plantings be mulched as the ground begins to freeze to prevent frost from heaving roots out of the soil. Most peonies are very hardy and never need to be mulched once established, although hybrids can suffer damage from a winter with no snow cover. In extreme locations, such as areas with temperatures regularly below zero degrees Fahrenheit, a good winter mulch is advisable for hybrids.