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Peonies

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Shiunden'

With many Peony varieties in cultivation they are grown both as garden plants and for cut flowers. In China, Peonies, or as we sometimes call them, the Peony Rose are regarded as an omen of good fortune, love and wealth.

Peony flowers are also regarded as the 'Queen of all flowers', so that is a fairly good indication that the peony flower is rather special.

They have also been in cultivation for centuries, including some named cultivars that have been around for nearly 200 years.

Peony season brings the gardener large perfumed flowers, lots of colours, pinks, whites and reds, and attractive foliage, so what's not to like about these hardy plants. They are even used as cut flowers and in wedding bouquets.

Some gardeners have a little difficulty in getting them to flower although others regard them as easy, we look at basic care and planting requirement for a wonderful display of Peony flowers in spring.

Varieties and cultivars

Peony Care

Selecting the plant.

When buying these plants be careful, some nurseries pass off very small and young tubers to the public and these can be difficult for the average gardener.

The problem is that peonies need a large root system to flower well, they are reliant on the energy stored over winter to produce the flowers.

It can take up to 5 - 6 years for this to develop, the iimpatient gardener has given up by then. So look for a largish root system, or be patient.

Planting out

Here is the second problem, some gardeners plant these plants in shaded positions and they need sun to flower. They are also often planted to deeply as well, the tubers need to be only 1" (25mm) below the surface, to deep and they will not flower.

And the ph, it need to be an alkaline soil or they may not flower.

Planting peonies - Step by step

  • Choose a well dug, free draining soil in a sunny position
  • Check the ph, we are looking for around 7.5. You may need to ad some lime to the soil to achieve this.
  • Dig in some well rotted compost
  • Plant the tubers with the buds just below the surface, except for those that need the buds, just above the surface.
  • Mark with a stake, these plants do not like to be disturbed.

Care and Pruning

In spring its time to feed the peonies, use a liquid seaweed fertiliser for good results, a general purpose slow release fertiliser is good as well.

After flowering let the plants die back naturally, this is important so that the root system builds up energy for the next season. This is essential as next years flower buds form on the root system, a happy healthy root system means better flowers.

Once fall comes around cut back to the ground and mulch lightly with some well rotted compost. Not to deep.

Peony Problems

Not flowering means they are :

  • Growing in to much shade,
  • Are planted to deep
  • You need the ph adjusted
  • The soil is to dry or to wet
  • You have over fertilized with nitrogenous fertilizer, which promotes foliage growth, not flowers root system is struggling with other plants
  • The plants are to young
  • The plants are to old and crowded, they need dividing and replanting