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The Wonderful World of Peonies
Posted on May 27, 2019 by Becky Staneruck
By Lisa R. / Annual & Perennial Buyer
Peonies are old fashioned tried and true mainstays in the perennial garden for a good reason! They are extremely long lived (often 50+ years), low maintenance, beautiful in the landscape and make wonderful cut flowers. As an added bonus they are deer and rabbit resistant and bothered by very few insect or disease pests. Many varieties are also fragrant!
Peonies typically bloom starting in late May through June and have attractive foliage throughout the growing season even after the flowers fade. The cut flowers will last for well over a week when harvested at the full bud stage.
Fairly new in the market are Itoh Peonies. Named for Toichi Itoh, the first hybridizer to successfully cross a tree Peony with an herbaceous Peony in the 1940’s, called an intersectional peony. These popular gems are in high demand, adored for their huge, beautiful blooms and lush green foliage. Once established, Itoh Peonies have an extended blooming period, with as many as 50 blooms in a single season due to their ability to produce primary and secondary buds. They are excellent in cut flower arrangements.
Looking for a friend for your Peony? Roses and Clematis both make wonderful companions and grouping the three will reward you with months of beautiful blooms.
While these garden favorites are quite easy to grow and care for, following the following tips will keep them looking their best:
Peonies enjoy neutral to slightly sweet soil, so add lime if the soil conditions are acidic.
Plant in organically rich well drained soil. Consider adding a product like our Soil Building Conditioner or aged compost at planting and side dressing established plants yearly.
An organic slow release bud and bloom boosting fertilizer applied in April will ensure a floriferous show. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer and instead use one higher in phosphorous and potassium to support bloom and root health.
One inch of water per week is a good rule of thumb for thriving peonies.
Consider installing a grow through hoop to support the blooms when the plant first starts to emerge in spring or use an open ½ circle support if the plant is already large and nearing bloom. Even though Peony stems are quite tough, a heavy rain or wind storm can cause the large blooms to topple over.
Peonies don’t typically need to be divided and established clumps resent being transplanted; in fact you may not get any blooms the first year or two after so don’t be surprised by this. If you do need to move or divide a peony, it should be done in late fall after the foliage has completely died back.