Peony season is finally here! For two weeks in June peony lovers everywhere rejoice and furiously arrange and photograph their precious flowers. . . or maybe that’s just me. There’s nothing like those delicate shades of pink and that glorious scent wafting from every bloom.
If you live in hardiness zones 2-8, you really need to pick up a peony root from your nearest garden centre or friend with too many on her hands. Here’s everything you need to know to grow and play with herbaceous peonies.
Best Practices for Growing Peonies
Peonies grow in zones 2-8 and are best planted in the fall. If you started yours in the spring, don’t worry, your peony will still survive. Plant your peony in an area that gets 6-8 hours of sun per day. If you live in zone 7 or 8, your peonies would appreciate some shade, but will still bloom even if they don’t get it.
Plant your root so that the top is about a 1/2 – 2 inches below the ground. If you plant them too far down, they may not bloom. And that my friends, would be a crime.
Why won’t they bloom, you ask? Peonies actually need to freeze for at least a month to ensure blooms the following spring/summer. Next time you’re in the middle of a -40 winter, take solace in the fact that at least your peonies will bloom again in the spring.
Side note: If you live in zone 2-3 like I do, I think you have more leeway in how deep you plant your peony, as we get more of a freeze.
Finally, space your peonies approximately 3 feet or 1 meter apart and prop them up with a peony hoop. (It’s like a large tomato cage).
Good things come to those who wait.
Peonies generally take 3 years to really establish. Ones grown from the root of an older established plant or in a bucket from your local garden centre might have one or two blooms the first year.
While peonies don’t need regular watering, it is nice in the first year of planting.
Personally, I give mine a slow release fertilizer in the spring, and water occasionally with Miracle Grow whenever I think of it–maybe once a month? You could do up to once a week, but I’m just not that organized yet.
The great ant debate
Do you really need ants to open your peonies, or is it just an old wives tale? Does anyone have a definitive answer? The internet is full of controversy.
My personal experience is that you need the ants to open the bud at least until some of the petals are showing.
Side note #2: Plant your peonies away from the house. Whether or not ants are needed, they are attracted to peonies. If your plants are too close you will have an infestation. Not that I know from personal experience or anything. . .
While we’re talking about animals, peonies are also unattractive to deer and rabbits. Plant without fear of them being eaten, if those are problem critters for you.
Cut Your Peonies so they last
The best time to cut is when the bud looks and feels like a marshmallow or is just opened. Cut the stem at an angle, longer than you think you’ll need for your arrangement. Strip off most of the leaves.
Dunk the heads into a big bucket of water and swish them around. This removes any ants that are lurking in the petals. Shake off the water and bring indoors. The buds will open fully within 24-48 hours and will last 7-10 days.
Peony stems that are already fully open won’t last as long and have more places for bugs to hide.
Did you know you can store peonies in your fridge for up to a month and set them out to bloom later?
Cut the peonies when they have just opened and you can see a few petals, like in this picture below:
Place them on a piece of plastic wrap that is two and a half times as long as the stems. Encase the peonies and store them in the fridge for up to a month. No water is necessary. When you are ready to use your flowers, recut the stems at least an inch off the bottom and place in a vase of water. The buds will open in a day or so.
Easy Peony DIY Projects
Now that you know how to grow peonies, it’s time to bring them indoors and make something beautiful! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Make sure you remove the leaves from the bottom of the stems so your arrangement looks cleaner.
Side note: make sure you use smaller buds for this project.
Try putting your peonies in a unique container, like this teapot:
and a Stunning Bridal Bouquet.
I also found this recipe for peony jelly. Should I try to make it?
No peonies? No problem. Check out my fried Sarah’s beautiful peony gift topper DIY at Pretty Simple Ideas.
Lastly, one really sweet lesson that peonies taught KariAnne at Thistlewood Farms.
Any tips for growing peonies? I’d love to hear from gardeners in other hardiness zones. (I’m in zone 3a.) Which one of the peony DIY projects is your favourite?
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