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BONNIE’S GARDEN – Peonies

By Bonnie Pega
Bonnie's Garden

Our locally grown peony roots just came in last week and I’m reminded of how much I love these huge gorgeous easy-care perennials.

The first peony I ever got was a division of one my grandmother had—and she said it was a division she’d gotten from her mother.  Peonies are one of the longest-lived perennials—living up to a hundred years or more.

The flowers are among the largest of our garden perennials—with individual blossoms often topping out at 10 inches in diameter.  When Marco Polo first saw peonies, he called them “Roses, big as cabbages.”  Certain varieties are also some of our most fragrant garden flowers, ranking right up there with oriental lilies and gardenias.

In Chinese, the word for peony is ‘sho yu’—meaning ‘most beautiful.’  They are the national flower of China and the state flower of Indiana.

How to Plant These ‘Most Beautiful’ Perennials

To plant peony roots, dig a hole about two feet in diameter and mix in some compost—our grower does not recommend manures at this stage.

Plant the roots with the eyes covered only one to two inches deep.  If you plant roots too deep, the plant will come up but will not bloom well, if at all.  Try to plant peonies in a spot where they can live for years because they resent being transplanted or moved.

Caring for Your Peonies

Feed peonies with a lower-nitrogen fertilizer (I use Bulb-tone) when the foliage begins to unfurl in the spring.  Feed again, lightly, in late summer.

Never remove peony foliage until it dies back on its own.  It needs a chance to send all its energy to the roots for next year’s flowers.  To prevent any problems, keep the base of the peony plant free from debris, remove the leaves in the fall as soon as they die back, leaving a three-inch stem.  Avoid overhead watering, if possible.

Ants love peony flowers.  They eat the nectar the buds produce.  Garden lore says that the ants eat the waxy coating on the buds so the flowers will open, but this is a myth.  The buds will open with or without help from the ants.  However, in order to protect their nectar sources, the ants fight off other insects which might damage the buds, so just leave them alone.

If you want to cut flowers for indoors, simply dunk the just opening bud into a glass of cold water for a couple of minutes.  That will quickly get rid of any ants.

Get Your Peonies Now

Speaking of being a symbol of good fortune, fresh locally grown peony roots have just arrived.  How fortunate is that?

To ensure your yard is the envy of the neighborhood in spring, stop by the Great Big Greenhouse and Nursery soon for the best selection of bulbs. I’ll be happy to personally talk with you about your yard and how to make it more beautiful with peonies, bulbs and other plants.

To read more from Bonnie, visit our blogs

5 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – Peonies

  1. They are! We have a good selection right now. These are freshly dug, locally grown so are well-acclimated to our area.

  2. My peonies have big black and brown spots on the leaves. Is this fungus? How can it be treated?

  3. This is likely fungal–due to the excessively wet weather we’ve had. They’ll be going dormant in a few weeks so this late in the season, you don’t really need to treat. Any foliage that is more brown than green, you can remove and wait for the first frost to remove the rest.

  4. Dear Sir or Madame,

    I’m looking for Red Grace peonies. Can you get them and if so, how much per plant? Also, do you carry a pure white peony?

    Thank you!

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