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Growing Peonies

Pe-oh-knees. Pe-an-ees. No matter how you pronounce it, there’s no denying how beautiful peony flowers are. Every May, I wait with bated breath for the first fluffy bloom to burst open (and usually steal it for my home). There were a few years when I moved the location of our plants but I’ve finally found the perfect spot for them on the farm. Keep reading to find out how we grow peonies!


GROWING ZONE

Peonies are hardy perennials that grow well in hardiness zones 3 to 8. Some varieties (such as single blooms) prefer colder climates while double bloom varieties do better in warmer climates.


PLANTING

The ideal time to plant peonies is late September through October. It’s best to plant when they are dormant is best because there is no energy needed for new growth. Peony eyes (the buds of the plant) should be planted 1 ½ to 2 inches below soil level;  too deep and they won't bloom. Baby peonies need to be watered because they have shallow roots and cannot easily draw in moisture. Planting them in well-drained soil and giving them space to grow and good air circulation helps plants thrive.


IN BLOOM

Peonies bloom in late spring, usually mid-May through early June for us. We sprinkle granular fertilizer on their soil at the end of March to aid growth. Peonies bloom best in full sun but only need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. If you live in a hotter climate, you’ll probably want to plant in partial shade to protect the plant and prevent wilting. A lot of people ask about why peonies are so ant-prone and I did some research on it. Check out this Crop Report to learn all about the relationship between ants and peonies!


STORAGE

We cut our plants back in mid-September and only leave about 3 to 4 inches of the stems so we don't delay new growth once spring comes back around. Peonies can be dug up and divided, keeping 3 to 5 eyes in each divided section. After dividing, replant the peonies to limit the amount of time roots are exposed to air (roots that are exposed to air for an extended period of time can dry out, therefore killing the plant). The best time to divide peonies is in the fall, when the plant is going into dormancy. New divisions (aka the transplants) might not produce blooms until the second or third year after planting due to the stress of adapting to a new environment.



VARIETIES

Some of the varieties we grow at the farm are Coral Charm, Karl Rosenfield (magenta), Sarah Bernhardt (light pink), Victoire de la Marne (dark pink), Festiva Maxima (white), Shirley Temple (white), and Red Charm.

 

Even though peony season doesn’t last very long, growing these springtime sweethearts is always worth it. Which color is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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