Beginners Guide to Peonies: Growing Tips and Beautiful DIYs. | SHIFTING ROOTS

Beginners Guide to Peonies: Growing Tips and Beautiful DIYs.

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.

But peonies aren’t always as easy to grow as they might seem. In this post, I go over how to grow peonies (especially if you’re in Canada like I am), how long before your peony will grow, and some tips for transplanting peonies.

Did you know that peonies make excellent cut flowers? Once they have established, peonies will provide you with many cut flowers to use in the five DIY flower arrangements I’ve listed at the end of the post.

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.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase something.  You can read more about it in my privacy policy.  Thanks for supporting Shifting Roots!

Can You Grow Peonies in the Spring?

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.  You likely won’t see any blooms–which isn’t a big deal because peonies generally don’t bloom the first year that they are transplanted. Or you might get one.

How Much Sun Does a Peony Need?

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.

Peonies will bloom in part shade, but they don’t thrive like the peonies that are planted in full sun.

How to Plant Peony Roots

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 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).

For two weeks every summer I am blessed with gorgeous pink and white peonies. Learn how to grow beautiful peonies in your front yard, the best way to cut them, and how to store them for later. Lots of DIY ideas including bridal bouquets, wedding flowers, fun arrangements, and even some beautiful floral hoop wreaths.

How Long Does it Take to Grow Peonies?

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.

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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.

Do You Need Ants for Peonies to Bloom?

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.

For two weeks every summer I am blessed with gorgeous pink and white peonies. Learn how to grow beautiful peonies in your front yard, the best way to cut them, and how to store them for later. Lots of DIY ideas including bridal bouquets, wedding flowers, fun arrangements, and even some beautiful floral hoop wreaths.

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:

For two weeks every summer I am blessed with gorgeous pink and white peonies. Learn how to grow beautiful peonies in your front yard, the best way to cut them, and how to store them for later. Lots of DIY ideas including bridal bouquets, wedding flowers, fun arrangements, and even some beautiful floral hoop wreaths.

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.

Related: The Best Cut Flower Perennials for your Garden, and How to Grow Cut Flowers on the Cheap


WANT TO CREATE A PERENNIAL GARDEN THAT CONSTANTLY BLOOMS FROM SPRING TO FALL, WITHOUT CONSTANT WORK?  HERE’S HOW. . . 

Everything you need to easily create your own perennial garden with constant blooms. You’ll get an easy to follow system, along with 5 templates and 5 done-for-you plans, plus fun bonuses.

LEARN MORE HERE!


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. If you like videos better, here’s how to make a hand tied bouquet with peonies:

Peony in a teacup

Easy peony in a teacup flower arrangement

A Farmhouse Style Peony Arrangement

Farmhouse style peony arrangement

Deconstructed peonies

Make sure you remove the leaves from the bottom of the stems so your arrangement looks cleaner.

For two weeks every summer I am blessed with gorgeous pink and white peonies. Learn how to grow beautiful peonies in your front yard, the best way to cut them, and how to store them for later. Lots of DIY ideas including bridal bouquets, wedding flowers, fun arrangements, and even some beautiful floral hoop wreaths.

The Perfect Table Topper

Peony arrangement perfect for a summer tablescape.

Easy and Elegant Floral Hoops

Side note: make sure you use smaller buds for this project.

Floral hoops perfect for a wedding shower or outdoor wedding.

Try putting your peonies in a unique container, like this teapot:

A beautiful hand-tied bouquet for your bridesmaids

Sweet and elegant bridesmaid bouquet with beautiful pink peonies

and a Stunning Bridal Bouquet.

Wedding flowers for a beautiful bride using stunning pink peonies.

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?

Want to see sneak peaks and behind the scenes?  Follow me on Instagram for beautiful snapshots and Facebook for the latest happenings.  Both accounts are different!

Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Kristen

Welcome!

Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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