Peonies Question & Answer Sheet

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I have some peonies that never bloom. What can be wrong with them? Several things might prevent them from blooming but the most likely is that they are planted too deeply. Two inches is the proper depth, and beyond that they frequently produce “blind” buds which will not open.

Lovely BouquetWhat fertilizer should I use? They will do well with a dressing of bone meal worked in around the plants each spring. A complete balanced fertilizer is also good, and well-rotted manure and leaf mold will help maintain fertility.

How do you take care of tree varieties? Tree peonies need the same soil and in general the same treatment as other varieties. Good drainage, fairly rich soil with a good amount of organic matter, regular cultivation and sun at least half the day, will make them do their best.

When is the best time to transplant them? Late August or early September is the best time of the year to divide and transplant them. That gives the young plants time to get established before winter. If you choose to plant them in the spring, a year’s bloom is usually lost.

Where’s the best spot to plant them? They prefer full sun. Don’t plant under shade trees or on the north side of the home.

How do you divide them? Dig the clumps by digging around the roots on all sides and carefully lifting the clumps. Cut the tops back to about 4″. Don’t break off the side roots. Shake off the excess soil and wash the roots with a hard spray of water. Divide the clumps with a knife or sharp spade. Allow from 3-5 eyes on each clump. Don’t plant the top of the divided clumps more than 2″ deep. They don’t flower when newly planted if the eyes are deeper than 2″. Also, if they are located in a shady area they will flower very sparsely.

I have a white one that blooms but a red one that doesn’t (I live in Mississippi). I have read that they can’t be grown this far south–is this so? The fact that your white one succeeds is proof that they may be grown in your locality. Some varieties are better than others in southern conditions. Felix Crousse and Richard Carvel are two red varieties adapted to the South. Try growing one of them instead of the red you are now having trouble with. They should have enough cold weather to freeze the tops back each winter, and enough water to keep the ground moist, especially at blooming time. Having them in partial shade is an advantage in very hot weather.

One I planted two years ago has not grown much. Its leaves are brown-spotted and it looks as though it may die. What is wrong? It may have the botrytis fungus blight, which is the most serious of peony diseases. This fall scrape the soil away from the crown and cut off all stalks as close to the crown as possible. Burn the old stalks. Next spring when new growth appears, begin spraying with Bordeaux mixture, and keep it up every week or ten days for a couple months.

Source: Vintage WorkBasket Magazine (1954)…Also, the information originally published on Daylilies & Irises: How To Divide & Transplant was moved here for better organization.

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Published: February 12, 2010

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10 Comments to “Peonies Question & Answer Sheet”
  1. mildred lane says:

    he best luck for sowing these is when you have a snow and sprinkle the seeds onto the snow. They are really beautiful.

  2. Elizabeth Muldowney says:

    I await the next snowfall so I can plant the seeds of the peonies, and watch them grow, I have never sown seeds in the snow, a great tip.

    Please forgive me, I have never heard of the word Gravatar, help me here please, I have heard of gravity.

    I simply love Peonies,, I have them in my garden.

  3. peony lady says:

    Ilovepeonies! They are wonderful landscape plants and gorgeous cut flowers for the home. I’ve never planted peony seeds and just might give it a try. One of the things people forget when they plant a peony: mulch over time buries the peony. If you are having problem and you think you’ve planted the peony roots correctly, I suggest to really look at it fall time. It might have gotten buried accidentally with mulch, compost or topsoil.

  4. Julie says:

    When my peonies bloom, all the blooms lay on the ground. It’s like they’re too heavy to stand up. Any suggestions?

    • Laura says:

      Julie, there are ‘peony rings’ available – much like tomato cages (which would probably work also!) – that will help hold up the blooms.

  5. Diane says:

    To reply to Julie’s question, I save the metal frames from the political signs you place in your yard. Then I bend it around a 5gallon bucket and there you have it something to hold up your peonies. I also leave mine in the ground all year, they rust and blend in with the foliage.

  6. Olena says:

    I am not sure if this is a wives’ tale or not. I always notice little ants chewing up the buds. My husband was going to apply some ant killer along the side of the house where the peonies are, and my mother cautioned him. She said peonies need ants or the buds won’t open.

    • Dee says:

      Ants do not harm or hinder peonies in any way. No need to use pesticide to get rid of them.

    • Jay says:

      Just leave them alone. They are not chewing anything, just licking your buds. It is just “old wife’s tale” that ants are helping Peony buds to open. Enjoy your Peonies.

  7. Jacqueline says:

    Will peonys bloom if planted in pots? I have two which are planted in decorative clay pots. I purchased the plants from a nursery and they were in bloom so I assumed they would bloom again. The plants are healthy and produce small buds but the buds never develop into blooms. The pots are place in an area which receives full sun. Any ideas?