If you are looking to grow an easy-care flower that is deer resistant and simple to care for, look no further than peonies. Learn how to grow peony flowers to get the longest bloom time in a growing season with these simple tips.
Peony flowers are a favorite of many gardeners, and it’s easy to see why. With their large, showy blooms and delightful fragrance, these flowers are sure to add a touch of beauty and elegance to any garden.
But have you noticed the blooms don’t last very long or sometimes they leaf out but don’t bloom at all?
It’s one of the quickest blooms of the season but there are a few tricks you can do to extend their flowering time and promote better blooms.
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, this post will provide the information you need to grow and enjoy peony flowers.
From planting tips to maintenance advice, here is everything you need to know.
(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)
Peonies are a popular plant in the flower garden that is known for their beautiful, large blooms and sweet fragrance. They are hardy deciduous perennial flowering plants that can thrive in a variety of climates and soil types, making them a popular choice for gardens and landscapes.
Most peony varieties are native to the Northern hemisphere, throughout much of Europe and Asia. But Brown’s peony (Paeonia brownii) is native to the northwestern United States.
Peony blooms also make excellent cut flowers that bring a beautiful aroma indoors with any bouquet.
With proper care, peonies can provide beautiful blooms for many years as they are a classic and beloved addition to any garden or cottage garden.
What Do Peonies Smell Like?
Peonies have a range of fragrances from spicy and citrusy to rosy and sweet. Some peonies are more strongly scented than others.
Plant peony plants near outdoor seating areas such as decks, patios, porches, and firepits to get a whiff of their incredible scent while enjoying your gardens.
What Season Do Peonies Bloom?
Depending on the type of peony you grow, they range in bloom time from April through June.
How to Grow Peony Plants
There are several types of peonies to grow and they each have different bloom times from April through June.
Regardless of the type you plant, make sure you give peony plants plenty of room because these perennial shrubs can grow differently depending on what you plant and have various growing habits.
- Tree peonies. They can grow 3 to 7 feet tall, have woody stems and branches, and do not die back in the winter.
- Herbaceous varieties. The most common type can grow 2 to 4 feet tall that dies back to the ground each winter.
- Intersectional peonies can grow 2 to 2.5 feet
- Woodland varieties can grow about 1 to 1.5 feet
Hardy in gardening zones 3-8, plant these perennial plants in full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to plant peonies in an area that gets enough sun. Because too much shade can result in poor blooming. So make sure they are planted in a space that receives a good amount of sunlight.
For best results, it is also important to plant peonies at the correct depth. In general, the crown, or top of the root system, should be planted about 1.5-2 inches below the soil surface. If you plant them too shallow or too deep you may sacrifice the flowering.
And by the way, planting too deeply or shallowly is the most common mistake when growing peonies. Oftentimes, if your peony plant is not flowering, that’s the reason why.
How to Plant Peonies
Because how they are planted affects flowering, it’s important to do it the right way. Autumn is the best time to plant them since it coincides with the beginning of the plant’s dormancy.
Here are some planting tips you should know.
- Take a soil test and prepare the bed accordingly. Peonies prefer a pH of neutral to slightly alkaline with good fertile soil that has excellent drainage. If the soil is amended well, peonies can be planted in sandy or clay soil.
- When planting purchased or divided herbaceous barefoot peonies, dig a generous hole. Place the peony in the hole and cover the top buds or eyes with only one to two inches of soil. Do not plant the buds upside down. If planted too deeply, flowers will not emerge in the spring.
- It should be noted that bare-root tree peonies should be planted deeper, about 6 inches below the soil surface. Deeply planting helps them grow their own root system.
To feed them, I add amendments yearly and my plants always look beautiful.
If you choose to fertilize peonies, there are different types of fertilizers to select from. It is recommended to apply in spring with a balanced fertilizerm such as a 10-10-10 formula.
For healthy peonies, water regularly. But keep in mind they do not like to sit in soggy, wet soil. So it is important to allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering to prevent root rot.
And make sure there is good drainage where planted.
Most plants have a spreading, vertical, or compact form. Some tall herbaceous varieties with large, heavy blooms and long stems require additional support to remain upright.
Whenever I stake my peony plants, I use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
And these are really good to use not only on peonies, but other flowering plants that need additional support too. So stock up on them in early spring.
A word of advice though. Set plant supports out as the plant emerges from the ground, because before you know it, it will be too large to support it with ease.
I realize it won’t look great for a bit, but trust me spring growth happens fast if you aren’t paying attention.
Some herbaceous peonies have smaller, fewer flowers, with short, sturdy stems that may require less support. So it really depends on the variety of what you are growing. The plant tag that comes with your peony should tell you whether it requires additional support or not.
Tree peonies with healthy, mature stems do not usually need staking.
4 Ways to Support Peony Flowers
Peony flowers can be heavy and may fall over due to their weight, especially during heavy rainfall or windy conditions. Here are some ways to support peony flowers and prevent them from falling over:
- Staking: You can use bamboo stakes, metal stakes, or even old wire hangers to stake your peonies. Place the stake near the base of the plant and gently tie the stem to the stake using soft twine or garden tape. Make sure to tie the stem loosely so that it has room to grow.
- Caging: You can purchase a pre-made peony cage or make your own using wire fencing. Place the cage around the plant and gently guide the stems through the openings in the cage.
- Ring support is a circular-shaped support made of metal or plastic with legs that are pushed into the ground. You can place the ring support around the peony plant, and it will provide support for the stems as they grow.
- Use companion plants in your garden design. Planting companion plants such as tall annuals or perennials, like delphiniums or salvia, near the peonies can provide additional support. The companion plants can act as natural stakes for the peony stems. To me, this is the least effective method.
It is essential to support your peony flowers as soon as they start to grow, so they don’t become weak or fall over.
Pest and Disease Problems
While peonies are pretty easy care for, they are prone to a few pests and diseases.
If you see ants on the flower heads before blooming, do not worry and leave them be. They help open the flowers.
Peony wilt is the most common reason you’ll see stems rotting. To keep this from occurring, avoid Iplanting peonies too closely together. When you see this botrytis blight, remove any leaves with dark spots on them to reduce fungal spread. And when cutting back the foliage in fall, pick up all the leaves, remove, and do not compost them.
Regular inspection by walking your gardens daily can help prevent major problems.
Propagate herbaceous peonies by division in the fall. To divide them, cut the faded foliage back. Then dig and lift the plant out with a garden fork removing as much of the soil as you can. With a hori hori knife, cut off sections of the crown making sure each has at least three buds with roots. Then replant immediately.
Tree peonies are not fans of division so leave them be. These are best propagated by seed or layering a stem.
How to Get the Longest Blooms Out of Your Peonies
One of the biggest drawbacks of growing peonies is their short bloom time. But you can easily plant and blend successive blooms with different flower forms so that peony flowers last for 7-8 weeks from April through June.
Thus, planting different types of peonies will extend your bloom time. If you want a continuous set of peony blooms, here is the order in which they flower through a growing season.
- Woodland peonies
- Tree peonies
- Herbaceous Varieties
- Intersectional hybrids, like Itoh
When planting, keep in mind their light requirements too to get the most blooms out of your peonies too. In general, most peony flowers prefer full sun, particularly herbaceous species and intersectional varieties like Itoh.
Tree peonies can tolerate full sun to dappled shade, however, they will do much better when planted in full sun.
And the woodland peony prefers spring sun and summer shade.
5 Reasons You Should Grow Peonies This Year
If you don’t have them in your garden yet, here are five reasons you should plant them this year.
- Peonies have beautiful, fragrant flowers that come in a range of colors including white, pink, red, and yellow.
- Once established, peonies are relatively low maintenance and do not require a lot of care.
- Peonies can live for many years and even outlive the gardener who planted them. They can continue to bloom and grow for decades with proper care.
- They are deer-resistant plants.
- Peonies can be enjoyed and used in a variety of ways. They are a popular choice for landscapes, can be used in borders, or as a focal point in the garden. The flowers can be cut and used in arrangements. And the plant can be used to make traditional Chinese medicine.
Do Peonies Like to Be Moved?
While peonies can tolerate being moved, it is best to avoid relocating them where possible. So think through the planting location beforehand.
They have deep root systems that can take several years to become fully established when relocated. Thus, they may take longer to bloom and may not perform as well as they would have in their original location.
If you do have to move a peony, the best way to do it is in the fall or early spring when the plant is dormant. And make sure to get as much of the root ball as possible when carefully digging it up.
Be sure to replant in a location with well-draining soil and full sun or partial shade. Water the plant well and add a layer of mulch around the base to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Because peonies do not love being relocated, it is important to remember that they may take a while to bloom, even years, after moving. So be patient and give the plant time to re-establish itself in its new location before expecting it to produce flowers.
Why Don’t Peonies Blooms?
There are several reasons why peonies may not bloom. Some common causes include:
- Planting depth. Peonies should be planted with the crown (top of the root system) about 1.5-2 inches below the soil surface. If the plant is planted too deeply, it may not have enough energy to produce flowers.
- Lack of sunlight. Peonies need at least six hours of sunlight per day to bloom properly. If the plant is growing in an area with too much shade, it may not bloom.
- Poor soil quality. Peonies prefer well-draining, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter. If the soil is poorly draining or lacks nutrients, the plant may not bloom.
- Overfertilization. Peonies do not need fertilizer to thrive. In fact, too much fertilizer can actually prevent the plant from blooming. Focus on improving soil quality instead.
- Pests or diseases. Peonies may not bloom if they are infested with pests such as aphids or if infected with a fungal disease. Make sure the plant has ample room around it for good air circulation to help prevent pest and disease problems.
If you are having trouble getting your peonies to bloom, try examining the plant for these common causes and taking corrective action.
What is the Best Fertilizer for Peonies?
Peonies do not need fertilizer to thrive. However, some gardeners prefer to use a small amount of a well-balanced fertilizer in early spring before the plant has started to grow to promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.
If you choose this path, look for the kind of fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) of 10-10-10. Avoid fertilizing the plant after mid-July, as this can stimulate new growth that may not have enough time to harden off before winter.
To fertilize your peonies, you can sprinkle a small amount of fertilizer around the base of the plant, taking care not to get any on the leaves or flowers. ALWAYS follow the label directions of the fertilizer you use. Water the plant well after fertilizing to help the nutrients reach the root system.
More About Growing Peonies
Do you have a favorite peony variety you enjoy growing? What are our tips for growing peonies? I would love to know more in the comments below.
And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!
If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!
And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.
Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some favorites in no particular order.
- When planting, I like to use a good-quality garden soil, compost, and perlite.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- This is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use to get underneath roots, loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around the property for pruning on the fly.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue and plant.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I like to use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?
If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.
From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.
Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.
- 5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden
- Easy-Care Cottage Garden Ideas
- Flower Garden Ideas for the Front Porch
- Why and How to Divide Perennials
- Perennials vs Annuals
- Flowers that Bloom in Midsummer
- How My Cottage Garden Grew in 2021
- Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners
- The Complete Guide to Roses Care
- The Basics of Hydrangea Care
- Everblooming Cottage Garden Design Ideas
- The Secret to Growing an Everblooming Cottage Garden
Sign Me Up!
Sign up for my free newsletter to get blog posts, seasonal tips, recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox!
Plus, get free VIP access to my Resource Library where you’ll find insider freebies not readily available to the public.
Thank you so much for following along.
Enjoy a beautiful day! xo
Want to learn more about me?
Get the inside scoop about my background, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.