Planting and Growing Guides for Peonies
Congratulations! You have just purchased a top-quality plant from Idlewild Farm. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, planting a bare root peony plant is not particularly difficult. Once established, our peonies are hardy and carefree plants. With relatively little care, these plants will thrive and reward you with many years of enjoyment and spectacular blossoms in the spring. To assist you in planting this beautiful plant, we have included some basic requirements on planting bare root peonies. Below you will find information on selecting a site, improving soil, fertilizing, and watering.
Planting Bare Root Peonies
Peonies are easy to grow. The best time to plant bare root peonies is in the fall. We select and ship only the best quality Chinese peonies. Our dormant bare root plants should be inspected and planted upon arrival. Do not allow bare root plants to dry out. If you are unable to plant right away, wrap your plant in moist peat moss or newspapers and store in a cool place with good air circulation.
Preparation for Planting
1. Prune broken branches or roots off the bare root peonies.
2. If your plant looks dry, the roots should be soaked in a bucket of water at least 6 to 12 hours, or overnight.
3. Dig a hole (2 feet wide x 2 feet deep) in a well-prepared garden bed that has been amended with organic matter.
4. Form a mound of soil in the center, at half the depth of the hole.
5. Gently place the bare root plant on top of the mound. Plant roots should be fanned out downward. In colder climates, make sure that the crown of the plant is a couple of inches below the soil surface.
6. Backfill the soil in the hole. Using your hands, firmly press the soil down around the plant to eliminate air pockets.
7. Build a soil perm about two inches tall around the newly planted peonies and give the plants a good drink of water.
8. Mulch around the plants.
*Herbaceous peonies should be planted no more than 2 to 3 inches below soil surface. If planted too deeply, herbaceous peonies may not bloom.
*In colder climates, the grafted section of tree peonies should be 3 to 4 inches below the soil line to protect the plants from the weather.
Both tree and herbaceous peonies prefer a sunny to partially shaded site. A well drained location is ideal. Because peonies are long lived plants, site selection is very important.
Good loam is essential for any garden. Gardens with heavy and poor soil should be improved with organic matter before planting. Peonies grow best in rich, moist, and fertile soil with good aeration. A well prepared peony garden bed should include aged compost, rotted manure, and peat moss. We recommend a ratio of 1 part soil amendment to 3 parts native top soil. You can also conduct a soil analysis of your garden by purchasing a soil test kit or contacting your countys agricultural extension service for more information.
When planted in a well prepared bed, peonies rarely need any additional fertilizing at the time of planting. However, if you would like your plants to produce large blooms in future years, we recommend that you feed your plants in the spring and summer with a balanced organic fertilizer. Excellent organic sources such as fish emulsion, seaweed, dried manure and rotted compost contain some of the best nutrients for your plants. Please read and follow the instructions from the fertilizer manufacturer carefully. Most importantly, do not over fertilize your plants. In acid planting soil, add lime to control the ph level.
To help your newly planted peonies establish their root system and prepare for the winter, water your plants well during and after planting and throughout their first growing season. Be sure to allow the soil to dry out slightly between each watering. After the first growing season, watering during long dry periods is sufficient. Also remember to water at the root area of the plant and not the foliage to help prevent diseases. The best time to water the plants is early in the morning so that the foliage will have enough time to dry out.
Diseases and Maintenance
Peonies are low-maintenance plants rarely bothered by pests and diseases. All peonies will perform their best if they are planted in a sunny area with good air circulation. In cool and damp springs, some peony plants are susceptible to fungal diseases such as botrytis blight, powdery mildew or leaf spots. Remove infected plant parts promptly. Do not put them in your compost. To prevent the spread of foliage diseases, avoid overhead watering at night. We use a fungicide spray in early spring to control fungal disease. Please follow manufacturers instructions carefully when using chemical products.
Insects such as aphids, scales and beetles can sometimes disfigure the plants. Herbaceous peonies should be cut down in late fall to prevent insects and diseases during the winter. Foliage of tree peonies should also be removed and thrown away at this time. To control aphids, we recommend you spray the plant with an insecticidal soap. Consult your garden center for an appropriate fungicide or insecticide.
Dividing Herbaceous Peonies
While it is unnecessary, established herbaceous peonies can be safely divided and transplanted in the fall. Carefully dig around and under the plants, try to keep as many roots as possible and wash the soil off the clumps. Use a sterilized and sharp knife to cut the roots. As a general rule, each newly divided section should have at least three to five eyes. Do not take too many divisions from one plant. Throw away parts that are diseased.
Chinese peonies rarely need any pruning. Remove damaged or infected branches when necessary. Do not recycle them in your compost. Some grafted tree peonies will produce new growths below the soil in the spring called suckers. These new shoots must be removed immediately. Remove spent flowers before they can develop seeds. Herbaceous foliage must be removed in the fall after the plants go dormant to reduce the chances of insects or diseases. Make sure you are using appropriate tools for the job. Pruning tools should be cleaned with a disinfectant after each cutting.
In extreme weather, peonies benefit from a layer of mulch insulation. After the ground freezes, apply one to two inches of organic mulch to the plants with materials such as bark nuggets, straw, peat moss or even evergreen wreaths and Christmas tree branches. When new growth begins in the spring, remove the mulch away from the base of the plants.
Chinese peonies will take a growing season to establish themselves in the gardens. Many plants will flower in the second year after planting. Once established, the plants will reward you with huge blossoms year after year for years to come. To use peonies for flower arrangements, cut the buds in the morning. As a general rule, do not take more than one-third of the flowers per clump. If you prefer a large single blossom on individual stem, then all side buds must be removed as soon as they appear. Simply use your fingers to pinch off the side buds. Plants with top heavy flowers may require staking.