Here are the most important peony planting and care tips:
1. Planting Season:
Plant bare root peonies in the fall, which is the prime peony planting season. October through mid November is the best time for planting to allow the roots to establish before winter. You can also transplant potted peonies in the fall or spring.
2. Soil and Sunlight:
Peonies thrive in well-drained soil and prefer full sun, although they can tolerate half a day of sun. A bit of shade can be beneficial for a longer bloom season. Peonies can grow in a variety of soil types, including clay soil, but you can amend the soil if desired.
3. Planting Technique:
Dig a hole about 15 x 15 inches and fill it with the spaded soil. Place the peony root downward at any angle, with the eyes (buds) facing upward. The roots should be near the surface, with just one to two inches of soil covering the eyes. Avoid planting too deeply, as it can result in foliage growth without flowers. Water the newly planted peony right away.
Water your peonies thoroughly upon planting and during dry weather in the first year. Once established, peonies are fairly drought-tolerant, but they appreciate a good watering every few weeks in hot summers. Let the soil almost dry out between waterings.
5. Fertilizing and Deadheading:
Fertilize your peonies in early spring with a 10-20-20 fertilizer. You can also fertilize after they bloom. Deadhead the spent flowers to promote better blooming. Cut the peony stems to ground level in late fall and remove them from the garden for sanitation purposes. Avoid composting peony leaves and stems.
Mulching is not necessary in the Northwest, but some gardeners in very cold winter climates may choose to mulch for protection and remove it in the spring. If your peonies lose vigor over time, check for issues such as buried roots due to mulch, excessive shade from trees, tree roots crowding the peony roots, or excessive nitrogen. If needed, you can dig, divide, and replant a division with 3-5 eyes in a different spot with good sun and drainage to rejuvenate your peonies.
Remember that peonies establish a vigorous root system in the first two years and often flower in the first year. By the third spring, they mature and produce an abundance of flowers. With proper care, peonies can thrive for decades without needing division unless you want to propagate or share additional plants.