- Peony Pruning: Is Pruning Of Peony Necessary?
- Is Pruning of Peony Necessary?
- When to Trim Peonies
- How to Prune a Peony
- Do Peonies Need To Be Cut Back For Winter?
- When To Cut Back Peonies For The Winter?
- Can You Cut Back Peonies After They Bloom?
- How Do You Winterize Peonies?
- To Prune or Not?
- A Healthy Peony Plant Will Last for Years
- More about Peonies
- Planting Bare Root Peonies
- 28 Mar Planting Bare Root Peonies
- Recently viewed bulb varieties
- How to grow peonies
- Great peonies to grow
- Nurseryman and Peony Grower Alec White explains the difficulties faced when growing peonies and three rules for how to grow the perfect peonies
Peony Pruning: Is Pruning Of Peony Necessary?
Image by LisaStrachan
Peonies, with their big, flashy, often fragrant blossoms become the focal point of the garden in spring. The flowers only last a week or two, but by planting different varieties together you can extend the season to up to six weeks. Once the flowers fade, you are left with an attractive shrub with deep-cut leaves. Pruning peonies is easy, and they often require no pruning at all. So how do you know when to trim peonies? Continue reading to find out more about when and how to prune a peony.
Is Pruning of Peony Necessary?
Is pruning of peony necessary, and if so, how do you go about peony pruning? In fact, peonies need very little pruning, but as with any shrub, pruning helps to promote good overall health and the control of insects and diseases. Peony pruning can help maintain the shape of the plant.
When to Trim Peonies
href=”https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/peony/peony-care.htm”>Herbaceous peonies are tender-stemmed plants that die back naturally in fall and regrow again in spring. Cutting back the dead stems to the ground in fall helps prevent insects and diseases and makes the garden look tidy. When you remove the stems, take care not to damage the crown, which is the fleshy part of the plant between the roots and the stems.
Remove stems that are infested with diseases or insects as soon as you discover the problem. Trim tree peony branches to remove damage caused by winter weather and to correct structural problems in spring.
How to Prune a Peony
The first thing you should know about pruning peonies is where to make the cut. The best place to cut a peony stem is just above a healthy bud. If the stem is diseased, make sure you cut back to healthy wood. Do not compost pruned cuttings that are diseased or infested with insects. Burn the stems or bag and discard them instead.
In cases of severe injury or when the plant is overgrown, remove the entire stem by cutting it close to the ground.
When two branches cross and rub against each other, remove the least desirable branch. The friction from constant rubbing creates a wound that serves as an entry point for insects and diseases.
Disbudding is the removal of selected buds to control the size and quantity of the flowers. If you remove the side buds and leave the bud at the tip of a stem, you will get one very large blossom. Removing the terminal bud and leaving those along the sides of the stem results in more but smaller flowers.
Peonies are a garden treasure. They are one of the best-known and most dearly-loved perennials with their beautiful pink blooms, intoxicating fragrance, trouble-free nature and penchant for longevity. With the fall season nearly upon us, you may be wondering to yourself, ‘when should peonies be cut back and how is it done?’
Herbaceous peonies die back naturally in the fall and regrow again in the spring. Cutting back the dead stems to the ground is a once-a-year task, done in autumn after the first frost has killed the leaves. The purpose of cutting back at this time is to stop insects and disease from harming the plant and to clear the garden grounds, keeping the area looking neat and tidy. End-of-season pruning is easy to do and goes a long way in maintaining the plant for future growing seasons.
Now that you know peonies require maintenance in the fall, let’s take a closer look at when to cut them back and the proper way to do this. We will also discuss whether or not you can cut back peonies after they bloom and what gardeners have to say about the pruning process in general. So, if you’re ready to learn more about peonies and how to care for them year-round, then let’s get started!
Do Peonies Need To Be Cut Back For Winter?
End-of-season pruning is vital for the health of the peony flower plant. Not only does it protect the plant from insect damage and disease but it also ensures the return of the blooms the following spring. There are different types of peonies, each requiring specific pruning needs. Let’s take a closer look at the different species below:
This variety of peony is most commonly found in gardens and classified as an herbaceous perennial. They have soft green stems and typically die back in fall and regrow the following spring. After the first frost, this flower should be cut back to the ground, removing any and all foliage, fallen leaves or dropped flowers to reduce the chances of disease being passed on to the next growing season.
This species of peony has woody stems and is often referred to as a deciduous shrub. They do not die back in the winter but could lose their leaves, depending on the climate. It is recommended to prune the shrub in the spring by removing any dead branches or suckers growing out of the plant’s base. This will also help control the size of the shrub and maintain a nicely rounded shape.
This type of flower is a hybrid cross between an herbaceous peony and a tree peony. It grows like the herbaceous type yet blooms similar to the tree variety. Intersectional peonies should be pruned the same way as their herbaceous cousin, cutting them all the way to the ground in autumn while removing any foliage or ground cover that still remains.
When To Cut Back Peonies For The Winter?
Cut back peonies once the plant starts to yellow or turn brown. This usually occurs in early fall or after the first frost, sometime in late September or the beginning of October. Cutting peonies in autumn removes any lingering foliar diseases and reduces the risk of infection the following year.
In regions where winter temperatures are severely cold, it is recommended to add some very loose mulch (such as pine needles or shredded bark) to the area after pruning and then remove it prior to spring in late March or early April. These areas also tend to get colder earlier in the year and will likely require cutting back sooner, such as mid to late September.
Can You Cut Back Peonies After They Bloom?
It is okay to trim away the dead peony blooms, but be sure to leave the foliage intact. The plant requires every leaf for regrowth the following year. Unlike other perennials, deadheading will not encourage a second round of blooms. It is still recommended, however, as overblown blooms turn brown quickly and take away from the beauty of the plant.
How Do You Winterize Peonies?
To properly winterize peonies, you need to do the following:
- Leave foliage on herbaceous peonies until late fall, no matter how unattractive they look.
- In October, cut away any and all growth at soil level and discard – be careful not to damage the crown (the fleshy part between the roots and the stems).
- Remove any stems that are infested with insects or disease and dispose of these in the trash.
- Dispose of the cuttings that are leaf-free by placing them in the compost pile.
- Rake fallen leaves from around tree peonies.
- Cut back branches around the base, if the shrub becomes sparse near the bottom.
- Remove any crossing or unshapely branches by cutting at a 45-degree angle at the base of the branch, just above an outward-facing bud or lateral branch.
To Prune or Not?
Now would be a good time to mention that some gardeners believe there is never a need to prune or cut back peonies. They just let nature take its course and simply allow the leaves to deteriorate in the peony garden. These same gardeners also don’t believe in deadheading either, saying it has little effect on the plant’s health.
Other gardeners, however, disagree and are in favor of pruning and end-of-season cutting back. They believe it goes a long way in protecting the plant from disease and insect infestation. They also advocate deadheading, arguing that it not only improves the appearance of the plant but also allows it to focus its energy on healthy leaf and root growth rather than seed production.
The final decision, however, is yours to make. However, for the purpose of this article, we argue in favor of cutting back. We believe it does maintain a healthy plant by providing both pest control as well as promoting new and healthy regrowth the following year.
A Healthy Peony Plant Will Last for Years
A healthy peony plant can live up to 100 years or more! These hardy perennials require only moderate pruning, if at all. Deciding whether or not to prune peonies is a personal choice, but the practice will aid in maintaining (and possibly improving) the overall health of the plant. Good luck, fellow hobbyists and happy gardening!
More about Peonies
If you love peonies, we think you’ll find these guides interesting too –
When Do Peonies Bloom (and For How Long)?
16 Peony Companion Plants that will look great in your garden
How to Grow a Bowl of Beauty Peony
Tree Peonies: Gardening Tips, Photos and more
Planting Bare Root Peonies
28 Mar Planting Bare Root Peonies
Posted at 07:00h in Gardens by CL Fornari
When I spoke at the Boston Flower Show recently I stopped by the Peony’s Envy booth. I’d chatted with Kathleen Gagan on The Garden Lady earlier in the day when I broadcasted live from the show, and she was telling my listeners about the many varieties of peonies that are available. She mentioned the lesser known Paeonia japonica, aka the woodland peony, and I had an immediate attack of plant lust. Once we were off the air, I asked if she had any of that peony species in her booth and she said that she did. I bought three.
When peonies are purchased as bare roots, it’s important to get them into the ground as soon as possible. So although the March winds were blowing and the air was chilly, I went out to the garden the next day to plant the three I’d purchased.
Gardeners often talk about the importance of not planting peonies too deeply. Ideally, the crown of the plants, where the shoots emerge from the root, should be an inch or two deep but no deeper. Unfortunately, however, I’ve frequently seen clumps of peonies that are not planted deeply enough because the gardeners were so worried about planting them too deeply they went too far in the opposite direction.
To plant my bare root plants I dug a wide hole to loosen the soil and then amended it with some compost from our pile. I opened the package and shook out the peatmoss that surrounded the root, letting it fall to the side of the hole. Next I placed the root in a shallow depression making sure the shoots were pointed upward. Finally, I covered the plant with just over 2 inches of soil. This will settle once it has rained a few times so the final covering won’t be as thick.
Here is how the bare root looked once I shook the peat off. I didn’t leave the label there – I just placed it under the root so you could see the pictures that came with the plant. One of the wonderful things about this ground-cover peony is the colorful seeds it produces later in the season. I can hardly wait!
Here is a shot of shoots poking up from the loam/compost mix. I continued to cover these plants so that the shoots didn’t show. As the plant gets established they will poke out of the soil once again.
When I started to dig the holes the puppy came over to “help.” It was if he was saying “Digging? I’m GREAT at digging!”
Recently viewed bulb varieties
By Graham Clarke
Rather like clumps of daffodils, forsythias and buddlejas that spring up each year and look great, even though they may be untended and on waste ground, so you may occasionally discover a herbaceous peony, flowering heroically on a patch of derelict ground that would once have been a garden.
Such peonies are so durable that they’ll survive decades of neglect – and they have been known to survive a hundred years or more, granted, with some tender loving care, especially in the latter years.
These plants are the perfect choice for gardeners looking for opulence, drama and even fragrance combined with a cast iron constitution.
There are essentially four different types of peony. Keen gardeners may wish to grow some of the wild species, though they are not usually the ones from which the dramatically colourful varieties are derived. There are also woody tree peonies, which have bare winter stems and are better suited to mid-way or the backs of borders. There are also hybrids, that are a cross between the tree peonies and the herbaceous types, which are becoming more popular (see the variety ‘Yellow Crown’, below).
Farmer Gracy’s Peony Conundrum
See if you can work out the answer to this question (answer at the bottom of this page).
The herbaceous peony ‘Sarah Bernardt’ was named after the actress (1844-1923) who saw fame on the stage and during the early years of film. But in which city was she born, and died 79 years later?
The largest group, however, is the more traditional, highly colourful herbaceous perennial peonies. Sometimes called the lactiflora peonies, these are the ones that are as tough as old boots. They first arrived into the UK from Europe, Russia and the Far East in the early 1800s, and quickly sparked a Victorian obsession with collecting and growing them. They have deep tuberous roots that store moisture and food, so you can see why they have stood the test of time.
In spring their tight crowns throw up a mass of new upright shoots, often in shades of red, bronze and purple, and they quickly get noticed. In fact, they look wonderful when featured alongside blue-and-white chionodoxas and Anemone blanda, creating a very pretty spring scene.
The plants quickly grow to 75-90cm high, and in May or June they burst into flower. Heads can be up to 25cm across, and even more.
Many types are scented and, for me, some of the perfumes are stronger and better than roses. But, it is important to say that fragrance is a very personal thing: what is a gorgeous perfume to one person may be unpleasant or non-existent to another.
Where to plant Peonies
Peonies prefer soil that provides average moisture. They dislike acid conditions, but will grow well on clay, but hate waterlogged soil. If your soil is still puddled six hours after heavy rain, find another site (or add large quantities of organic matter and grit to the soil, as deeply as you can dig, to improve the drainage). These plants live for many years, so adding plenty of nutrients, in the form of well-rotted compost, to the soil at planting time is a good idea.
Peonies prefer to be in full sun, or very light shade. They will survive in moderate shade, but they will not bloom as well and stems will not be as strong.
How to plant Peony Bare Roots
Your peonies will be sent to you as ‘bare roots’. This just means that the soil has been washed from the roots, making the plant lighter and cleaner to send, with no risk of any soil-borne diseases or pests being spread. There are many types of plant that are sold and posted in this way; it makes them easy to handle, and they settle in the ground very quickly.
Set your peony roots in the ground, with the tips of the roots pointing downwards. The depth of planting is quite important: if planted too deep, the roots will grow and produce foliage but flower production will be limited. The buds, or growing points, should be 2-5cm below soil level – the shallow end of this range in warmer areas or in sheltered gardens, and the deeper end of this range in cold areas. Space plants 60-90cm apart, to allow room for plants when they are mature.
Water immediately after planting, being quite generous with the water to help settle the roots in.
The early foliage to appear will be immediately identifiable, with its bright reddish tints. As they lengthen they change to green, and develop into leaves. Flower buds will follow, although buds don’t always form the first spring after planting.
The first year most roots will produce up to five leaf shoots, and perhaps just one or two flowers. In the second year the number doubles, and again in the third year. After that, the peony will be lush, bushy, with many flowering stems.
On-going care of Peonies
Peonies and very easy to care for, especially when compared to many other popular garden plants, such as roses, sweet peas or clematis: aphids seem completely disinterested in them, and slugs (on the whole) cause little damage.
When in growth, water plants during dry weather, and remember that deep watering once a week is better than lighter, shallow waterings every other day.
Many of the older Victorian varieties, especially those with large double flowers, including the perennial favourite ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, need to be supported – the flowers are so large and heavy that their weight can break the stems.
Feel free to cut blooms to bring indoors. This won’t harm the plants, and will provide gorgeous, often fragrant, stems for vases or bouquets. After blooming has finished for the season cut off any faded flower stems. The plants will continue to provide attractive, lush foliage for the remainder of the growing season.
As autumn arrives and temperatures fall, the leaves will turn yellow and, after the first frost they will wilt. At this point trim off the remaining leaves, and clear the ground. Next spring will, of course, bring fresh growth.
Lifting, transplanting and dividing Peonies
It is often said that you shouldn’t move peonies, as they won’t grow away again properly. Well, not in my experience! You can dig up a peony and plant it somewhere else, and it will hardly notice, provided that it is done in early autumn – with enough time for it to establish and bed its roots in the soil, before winter comes and the plant goes into dormancy. Then, in spring, you’ll find that the plant will grow away again normally, as if the move had never taken place.
Propagating peonies by lifting and dividing them can be done in early autumn, too. It is best to dig up the whole plant and, if you can, wash off the soil to see what you are doing. Cut the crown into large pieces with a sharp, stout knife, making sure that each piece has four or five buds. Don’t cut the pieces so small that there is just one bud on them: you won’t kill the plant, but it will take quite a few years before small divisions will start to flower.
Then replant; you may get flowers next year, you may not, but after that normal flowering will resume, providing plants are healthy.
There are several dozen varieties available commercially, all with slightly different colouring to the flowers. Farmer Gracy has selected six of the very best varieties:
- Bowl of Beauty
Bowl of Beauty was the first ever herbaceous peony to catch my eye, more than 30 years ago. It was actually bred in the Netherlands and released to the public in 1949, so it has stood the test of time. The bloom’s large base petals of cerise pink seem to form a cup to hold an abundance of small bright cream-white petals that crowd the centre. Over succeeding days, the cup opens out into a bowl, possibly 20cm wide, and the whole effect is stunning. There is a powerful fragrance, too. It grows to 90cm tall.
- Buckeye Belle
This is an award-winning yet unusual semi-double hybrid , with extremely dark red, well-rounded petals, almost forming a complete ball, and which appears much lighter in the sun. The petals are slightly crinkled. Several well-established plants of this variety growing together will really light up that part of the garden. To 85cm tall.
- White Charm
Peony White Charm is a slightly later-blooming hybrid, a double, white with its outer petals light pink. When fully open, the centre has a tinge of green. It has a delicate fragrance, and it makes an excellent cut flower; cut when in bud. To 90cm tall.
- Yellow Crown
This large golden yellow semi-double flower, with a touch of red at the base of the petals, can reach 25cm across; few varieties can offer such drama. It looks its best around mid-summer, regardless of the weather. It is one of the early hybrids that resulted when a white herbaceous peony and a yellow tree peony were first crossed, resulting in so-called Intersectional or Itoh Peonies. To 90cm tall.
- Sarah Bernhardt
This variety first came to prominence in 1906. It produces huge, fluffy apple-blossom-pink flowers, deeper in colour in the centre, fading towards the edges. It keeps its colour well generally, but in very bright sunshine the colouring fades to near white – but this doesn’t really detract from the variety. Twenty four years ago it was given a coveted Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, for its excellent performance under UK growing conditions. To 95cm tall.
- Madame Emile Debatene
Spreading a wonderful fragrance when in flower, this peony makes a real picture in the late spring and early summer garden. It produces double rose-shaped flowers of deep pink, with a silvery sheen and a centre of smaller curly petals. Most of the stamens are mixed with the petals, but there is also a tuft of very short golden stamens deep in the centre of the flower.
The answer to the Peony Conundrum: 1) Paris. Sarah Bernhardt was born in 1844 as Henriette-Rosine Bernardt, the daughter of Julie Bernardt and an unknown father. Sarah was brought up at first in a pension and later in a convent; a somewhat difficult child, she wanted to become a nun, but one of her mother’s lovers, Napoleon III’s half-brother, decided that she should be an actress. When she was 16 he arranged for her to enter the Paris Conservatoire, the government-sponsored school of acting. She eventually became the most famous actress in the world at that time.
“Peonies! All about Peony Bare Roots”
is a guest blog written by:
Horticultural & Publishing
Consultant at HHPS Ltd
How to grow peonies
There are few plants that can beat the hardy, deciduous peony when it comes to flamboyant flowers. The giant blooms can often be the size of dinner plates. They’re stunning.
There are three types of peonies: herbaceous types, which die back to ground level every winter; tree peonies, which are taller and more woody and keep their frame throughout winter (they’re small shrubs and not trees); and intersectional hybrids, which are a cross between tree and herbaceous types (these are not so readily available).
Follow our detailed Grow Guide, below.
Plant peonies in a rich but well-drained soil in a position of full sun. Deep red peonies in a mixed border
Where to grow peonies
Plant peonies in a rich but well-drained soil in a position of full sun. Avoid planting these often expensive plants in a waterlogged soil. The majority of herbaceous peonies prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.
Tree peonies need a sheltered position and are more tolerant of acid soils.
Adding organic matter to a planting hole for peonies
Bare-root plants should be planted as soon as they arrive. Peonies prefer being planted in autumn or spring. Ensure that you don’t plant them too deeply – this will yield poor results. Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting. Apply a balanced fertiliser in spring.
Avoid overwatering newly planted peonies as this is a common cause of plant failure.
As the flowers are so weighty peonies, especially the herbaceous types, will require a plant support.
Plant support at the base of a peony
Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn. Cut the faded foliage back and lift the plant with a garden fork. Remove as much of the garden soil as possible and with a knife cut off sections of the crown. Each section should have at least three buds and plenty of root. Replant straight away in the garden.
Don’t try to divide tree peonies. Instead, you may be able to try layering a pliable stem, or sowing seed.
Paeonia ‘Nippon Beauty’
Peonies: problem solving
The most common problem is peony wilt. This is a botrytis that causes the stems to rot. To avoid this fungal attack avoid planting plants too close together. If you see leaves with dark spots on them remove them as this will help to reduce the spread. When cutting back herbaceous types in autumn clear up all the foliage to avoid reinfection in spring.
Peony buds are very appealing to ants. It’s not unusual to see the buds crawling with ants. Don’t worry, they won’t damage the plant.
Cutting back a herbaceous peony to the base
Herbaceous peonies should be cut back hard in autumn to ground level. Tree peonies do not need pruning. All you need to do is remove the faded seed heads in autumn. Don’t be tempted to pick off the faded foliage in autumn – let it fall off naturally. Avoid pruning tree peonies hard back as they are often grafted onto herbaceous peonies.
When weeding borders try to avoid stepping on the newly forming buds of the herbaceous types.
Peonies tend to be trouble free. Rabbits and deer are not keen on eating them.
Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’
Great peonies to grow
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Angel Cheeks’ – herbaceous type with candy floss pink double flowers in May and June. Height of 70cm
- Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’ – a very popular herbaceous peony. Bright pink outer petals and lemon petaloids. Flowers in May and June. Height 90cm
- Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ – large, double, pale-pink flowers in May. This herbaceous type is perfumed and ideal for cutting. Reaches 90cm
- Paeonia ‘Mrs William Kelway’ –a popular tree peony with semi-double pure white flowers in May or June. Reaches 120cm when mature
- Paeonia ‘Souvenir de Maxine Cornu’ – a tree peony with double yellow and orange blooms in May or June. Flowers hang downwards. Really over the top – a showstopper. Reaches a height of 120cm
Alec White Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries
Nurseryman and Peony Grower Alec White explains the difficulties faced when growing peonies and three rules for how to grow the perfect peonies
I’ve had a love affair with peonies for some time now; herbaceous, intersectional and tree peonies. I just love the timeless elegance of them; the colours, the impressive blooms and of course the magnificent fragrance. Every garden deserves peonies and every gardener should include them.
There are many who would be put off growing peonies in their garden because of the relatively short flowering season; they may think that there are better plants which will offer more colour and more value for money. It may be thought that the peony is a difficult plant to grow, but it’s unrivalled in the garden when in flower and is an excellent low maintenance plant, perfect for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
The sheer size of the flower is simply incredible, with many of the intersectional peonies producing flowers the size of dinner plates, with colours ranging from white to yellow, pink to purple and everything in between. There are single, semi-double and double flowers all of which are exceptionally beautiful and that is before you look at the many peonies that are fragrant.
Most peonies are fragrant, with some more so than others. For example, Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ AGM is an exquisite double white flower with a cream centre and the most delightful perfume. A personal favourite of mine are the delicate blush flowers of Paeonia lactiflora ‘Catharina Fontijn’ which produce a delightful yet intense perfume. There are few other plants that can boast such attributes in terms of size and colour of flower that also have fragrance.
Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries
So the peony has scented, impressive and showy flowers and this alone makes it very attractive for the border. What else has this plant to offer? Despite a popularly held view that peonies are delicate and difficult to grow, the truth is that they are very easy to grow and extremely hardy, making them perfect for all gardeners. They will live happily in a decent sized container for some years but ultimately they will be happier in the ground.
There are of course, a few things to remember with peonies but get these right and you are looking at decades (in some cases peonies can live for 60 years) of hassle-free gardening and the finest display of colour and scent that simply gets better with time.
Here are my 3 rules for growing the perfect peonies:
Rule number 1: Remember not to plant your peony too deeply. The tuberous roots must not be planted more than about 2.5cm below the surface. If they are planted any deeper they may give wonderful foliage (some of the intersectional peonies, such as ‘Bartzella’ AGM or ‘Julia Rose’ have finely cut leaves which turn crimson red in the spring and autumn and many of the herbaceous or garden peonies have strong red stems and light green soft foliage) but they simply will not flower.
If you have a peony in the garden and it isn’t flowering, it is probably because it has been planted too deeply or it has been buried when you have diligently mulched your borders. Just wait until the autumn and then, taking care not to damage the buds on the roots, lift your peony and re-plant it at the right depth.
Rule number 2: Plant your peony in a sunny position. Although many varieties will tolerate some shade (for example Paeonia lactiflora ‘White Wings’) if your peony is in heavy shade it will be reluctant to flower well.
Rule number 3: Plant your peony in fertile, free-draining soil. Peonies are not generally too fussy about the soil and are quite happy in chalky or clay soils provided that it is free draining; they don’t like to sit in water in the winter.
Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries
As you can see, the rules really only apply to planting your peony. Once planted, your peony will be quite content to be left alone. In fact if you have rich, fertile soil you probably don’t need to feed your peony, but if your soil is not so good a balanced, general fertiliser such as Growmore applied in the spring should do the trick. It is also a good idea to cut back and remove the dead leaves in autumn to avoid peony wilt.
Peonies are therefore, relatively low maintenance and reliable performers in the garden. They aren’t going to grow like triffids and take over your garden; most will get to about 80-90cm tall and about 60-80cm wide and of course they will die down in the winter before emerging in the spring to delight you for another season (this does not apply to tree peonies).
In general, peonies do not really suffer from pests and diseases, requiring little care or attention once established. In fact deer and rabbits leave them alone too which makes them ideal in rural gardens. While we are talking about peonies let’s dispel another myth, that peonies don’t like being moved. Subject to rule number 1 (above), carefully lift peonies in the autumn and replant or divide them (remember to keep 3-5 buds on each bit of root that you divide and if you are planting them in a container, don’t overwater them). It’s as easy as that. Honestly, there is no magic to it.
Peonies take time to mature and you must therefore be patient. This takes time and while it may be tempting to purchase a smaller, cheaper plant and wait for it to grow, my advice is to buy a well established peony, one that is at least 3-5 years old or more, to be sure of success in your garden.
The show that peonies put on may be relatively short, but my goodness what a show it is. The peony’s hardiness, low maintenance and longevity are reasons in themselves to spark a love affair, but the sheer beauty and fragrance of the flowers make it thunderbolt city for me.
Alec White is a Nurseryman and author based at Primrose Hall. For more information, click here.
For some simple spring gardening tips, click here.