How to Grow
Peonies are easy to grow and can live for decades, often 50 years+, and are very low maintenance. Peonies are rarely troubled by slugs, snails, deer or rabbits and are hardy plants (usually hardy to -20C) requiring no winter protection. Peonies are pretty drought tolerant in the Summer but will need plenty of water in the Spring when they are forming their flower buds. Peonies can be grown in containers or in the flower border. It is best to purchase a well-established peony, at least 5 years in maturity, to ensure that it will be at flowering maturity.
There are 3 simple rules to planting herbaceous peonies:
- Plant in full sun or part shade in a sheltered position
- Any fertile soil will do, as long as it is free draining
- Plant herbaceous peonies with the crown (top of the root) no more than 5cm below the ground. With container grown plants, simply plant them at the same level they are in the pot they arrive in.
It is important to remember not to plant your herbaceous peony too deep and not to bury it with mulch. Peonies like organic matter but don’t mulch over the crown and bury your peony! Peonies will thrive in any soil, including clay: the important thing to remember is that the soil must be free-draining, if the ground gets waterlogged the roots may rot.
Dig a hole twice as big as the root ball of the plant you are planting and put some organic matter or compost at the bottom of the hole. It is often a good idea to mix some fertiliser (such as our Professional Peony Feed) with the compost. Place your peony in the centre of the hole, ensuring that the crown is level with or just below the surface level, backfill with compost and soil and firm into place. Water well but don’t over-water; remember that the root will rot if it gets too wet and this is more of a risk in the Autumn and Winter when the plant is not actively growing (or if you are planting a bare root).
The process is exactly the same when planting tree peonies, but with grafted peonies it is best to plant with the graft union about 10-15cm below the surface.
Most peonies will benefit from a general, balanced feed in either the Spring or the Autumn. Feeding encourages your peony to flower along with regular watering, although beware of over watering as peonies do not like to have water logged roots. If you have reasonable soil, you may find that your peony requires no feeding at all. We recommend our Professional Peony Fertiliser for use in the Spring or Autumn. If you missed your Spring feed and don’t want to forget in the Autumn we also offer a Summer rejuvenator which will keep you peony fed until the following Spring.
Moving and Dividing
Once your peony is well-established in your garden you may wish to divide it. Some peonies can grow to about 90cm in diameter. It is a popular myth that peonies cannot be moved; if done properly then your peony will respond well to being divided and/or moved.
Wait until October, when your peony is dormant. Cut back any dead foliage to about 2cm above the ground. Being careful not to damage any ‘eyes’ or buds that are developing at or just below surface level, dig up as big a clump as possible. You can divide your peony with either a sharp spade or using a pruning knife (depending on the size of the plant). Ensure that each piece of root that you divide has at least 3-5 ‘eyes’ or buds. Whether you are moving or dividing your peony, plant is as soon as possible after lifting it to minimise disruption to the root system; ideally plant it the same day.
Sometimes your peony will not flower the following year. As long as you have planted it correctly, don’t worry this is normal and your peony is simply adjusting to its new position; it will flower in future years.
Maintenance and Peony Care
Peonies are a low maintenance plant and, once established, rarely suffer from pests and diseases. Most peonies will spread to around 90cm in diameter and grow to about 90cm tall; this means that at some point you might wish to divide your peony. You may also need to provide some plant supports (we recommend our Peony Plant Supports) for taller varieties – remember to position the plant support in the early Spring before your peony has grown too much!
A feed in the Spring or Autumn is often advisable using our Professional Peony Feed.
Once your peony has flowered you may wish to dead-head the blooms. Dead-heading your peony is not essential but it will keep the plant looking tidy and encourage further root growth. Do not cut back the foliage – even if it is dead looking – until the Autumn because your peony is still growing. Cutting back of herbaceous peonies is easy: simply cut everything back to about 2cm above the ground. Cutting your peony back will assist with good hygiene and help mitigate against any disease the following year.
Once your peony has flowered you may wish to dead-head the blooms. Dead-heading your peony is not essential but it will keep the plant looking tidy and encourage further root growth.
Do not cut back the foliage – even if it is dead looking – until the Autumn because your peony is still growing. Cutting back of herbaceous peonies is easy: simply cut everything back to about 2cm above the ground. Cutting your peony back will assist with good hygiene and help mitigate against any disease the following year.
Tree peonies respond well to pruning. Prune in the Autumn and either take back the top growth by about 1/3 in stages or, if you have a multi-stemmed tree peony, cut back every 3rd stem to about 2cm removing the oldest stems first.