Peony: How to Grow and Care

One of the longest-used flowers in the ornamental culture, peony plant is prized for its handsome foliage, huge blooms, and long-lasting fragrance and scent. Being drought resistant, these plants are usually pink, red, white, and yellow and bloom in late spring or early summer. Their immense beauty and strong fragrance make these herbaceous perennials a garden treasure.

Indigenous to Asia, Western US, and Europe, peonies get their name from Paeon, mythological Greek medicine expert. Zeus turned Paeon into a peony flower when he realized that Asclepius, the God of medicine, had become jealous of his fame. Peony is prized for its medicinal properties in China; however, excessive doses can be exceedingly dangerous.

Growing Peonies

The best time to plant peonies is early autumn to give their roots ample time to become established in the soil before winter. Once grown, peony plants can be planted even in the spring. Prepare the plant bed well with compost and peat moss. Dig a hole, 18 inches deep and 18 inches across for each tuber. Make sure that the holes are at least 3 feet apart and half filled with soil, mixed well with fertilizer. Peonies are prone to gray mold if planted too closely, restricting air flow between plants.

Peony root should be planted close to the surface and have at least three eyes, which eventually turn into stems. Plant the tuber in a way that its uppermost eye is not deeper than 2 inches. The tuber planted

too deep will find it hard to produce blooms. Fill the hole with soil and water thoroughly so that the tuber holds firm in the soil.

Caring for Peonies

Though peonies, being since hardy flowering plants, do not need much care, the following tips can help you enhance the beauty of these plants:

  • Water peonies regularly and deeply during dry summer months.
  • Nourish the plant with low nitrogen fertilizer when its stems are 2-3 inches high. Make sure that there is no damage to the roots and the fertilizer does not come in direct contact with them. Though cultivation with fertilizer will strengthen the plant, over use of fertilizers might result in weak stems and even reduce flowering.
  • Remove all side buds, leaving only terminal buds on each stem tip for larger bloom.
  • Leave some lateral buds to ensure a longer flowering season and copious flower production.
  • Provide the plant with a sturdy stake and tie the stem loosely with a strip of cloth to prevent the flower from bending or breaking during wind or rain.
  • Remove the faded flowers to prevent seed development so that these do not use up the needed food reserves for the next-year bloom. Do not cut more than one-half of the flower and leave plenty of foliage on the plant. In the fall, the foliage looks lovely before it begins to die.
  • Remove the stem of garden peonies to 3 inches from the soil to prevent any risk of fungal diseases in the fall.
  • Use a sharp sterilized knife to cut tubers, with each section containing 3-5 eyes.
  • Divide and replant peonies once they are crowded to ensure that they respond well to transplanting. Peonies do well when transplanted in the fall.

Besides, remember that peony plants like a good chill to attain dormancy; therefore, it is better to keep their roots exposed, with only two-three inches in the soil. It is extremely important to select the proper site for the plant. Shade from trees or buildings might restrict the growth of the plant, resulting in weak plants that bloom sparsely or fail to produce flowers. Ensure that the plant needs at least six hours of sunshine daily to protect it from fungus like gray mold. This will allow it to be in full bloom.

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