Peony How to Plant – A Green Thumb’s Guide to Flower Gardening

Embarking on the journey of planting peonies can be daunting, especially for novice gardeners. Peonies are classic beauties that have graced gardens with their dramatic blooms and lush foliage for centuries.

This blog post serves as your comprehensive guide to growing these magnificent flowers, from selecting the perfect varieties to providing optimal care throughout each season. Ready to unleash your green thumb? Dive in and let’s cultivate a flourishing peony paradise together!

Key Takeaways

  • Peonies are classic flowering plants that come in herbaceous, tree, and intersectional varieties.
  • Selecting the right planting location with full sun and well-drained soil is crucial for peony growth.
  • Proper care includes regular watering, fertilizing in early spring, mulching, staking tall varieties, and pruning in late fall.
  • To overwinter peonies, cut back foliage after the first frost, apply mulch for insulation, monitor for pests and diseases like botrytis blight and aphids.

Peony Basics

Peonies are beautiful flowering plants that come in various types, including herbaceous, tree, and intersectional peonies.

What are peonies?

Peonies are classic garden flowers that have graced landscapes for centuries with their large, vibrant blossoms. Originating from Asia, Europe, and Western North America, these perennial plants come in three main types: herbaceous peonies which die back to the ground each winter and reemerge each spring; tree peonies which maintain a woody structure year-round; and intersectional or Itoh peonies that combine traits of both other types.

Known for their robustness and longevity, some peony plants can thrive for over 100 years when properly cared for. They are ideal as bedding plants due to their lush foliage and dramatic blooms and equally popular as cut flowers because they add elegance to any floral arrangement.

Types of peonies (herbaceous, tree, intersectional)

Peonies come in various types, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are the different types of peonies:

  • Herbaceous Peonies: These are the most common type of peonies and are known for their beautiful flowers that come in a wide range of colors. They have soft stems and die back to the ground in winter.
  • Tree Peonies: Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies have woody stems that remain above ground throughout the year. They produce large, showy flowers and can grow into small shrubs.
  • Intersectional Peonies: Also known as Itoh peonies, intersectional peonies are a hybrid between herbaceous and tree peonies. They have sturdy stems like tree peonies and produce an abundance of large, colorful flowers like herbaceous peonies.

Why grow peonies?

Peonies are a must-have addition to any garden because they offer timeless beauty and elegance. These stunning flowers come in a variety of colors and bloom sizes, making them perfect for creating eye-catching focal points in the landscape.

Peonies also make excellent cut flowers, allowing you to bring their captivating beauty indoors. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting out, growing peonies is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that will add charm and sophistication to your garden beds or cut flower arrangements.

Recommended peony varieties

  • ‘Sarah Bernhardt’: This is one of the most popular and widely recognized peony varieties. It features large, fragrant double blooms in shades of pink.
  • ‘Karl Rosenfield’: Known for its vibrant, deep red flowers, this peony variety is a classic favorite among gardeners. Its blooms are also highly fragrant.
  • ‘Bowl of Beauty’: This variety is prized for its unique and eye-catching blooms. The large, semi-double flowers have a creamy yellow center surrounded by bright pink petals.
  • ‘Coral Charm’: If you’re looking for a striking peony variety, this one is a must-have. It produces gorgeous coral-pink blooms that gradually fade to a soft peach color.
  • ‘Festiva Maxima’: This peony variety has long been cherished for its timeless elegance. It features pure white double blooms with crimson flecks at the base of each petal.
  • ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’: With its showy, soft pink flowers and pleasant fragrance, this peony variety adds a touch of romance to any garden or bouquet.
  • ‘Kansas’: This particular cultivar stands out for its magnificent dark red flowers and strong stems that can support the weighty blossoms.
  • ‘Duchesse de Nemours’: For those who prefer delicate white flowers, this variety delivers. Its fully double flowers are pure white and emit a lovely fragrance.

These recommended varieties offer a range of colors and characteristics to suit different preferences and garden designs. Whether you’re seeking vibrant shades or subtle elegance, these peonies will surely add beauty and charm to your flower garden.

Planting and Caring for Peonies

Learn how to plant and care for peonies, including selecting the ideal location, providing proper care, and ensuring stunning blooms in your garden.

Selecting a planting location

Choosing the right planting location for your peonies is crucial to their growth and success. Peonies thrive in full sun, so it’s important to select a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.

This will ensure that your peonies produce more and bigger blooms. Additionally, consider the soil conditions. Peonies prefer well-drained soil with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5.

Before planting, make sure the area has good drainage and amend the soil if necessary to provide optimal growing conditions for your peonies.

Ideal growing conditions

Peonies thrive in optimal growing conditions, which include full sun and well-drained soil. They prefer about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, so choose a location in your garden that receives plenty of direct sunlight.

It’s important to provide peonies with a soil that is rich, loamy, and has good drainage. Make sure the pH level of the soil is slightly acidic to neutral (around 6.5-7.5) for best results.

Peonies also benefit from regular watering during dry spells and regular fertilization to promote healthy growth and abundant blooms. With these ideal growing conditions, you’ll be able to enjoy stunning blooming peony flowers in your garden year after year!

Planting peonies

To plant peonies, follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a sunny location: Peonies prefer full sun, so select a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  2. Prepare the soil: Peonies thrive in well-draining soil with a pH level between 6 and 7. Amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to improve its fertility and drainage.
  3. Dig a wide and deep hole: Dig a hole that is wide enough to accommodate the peony’s root system and deep enough to ensure that the eyes (the reddish buds on the roots) will be planted no more than 2 inches below the soil surface.
  4. Place the peony in the hole: Settle the peony plant into the hole with the eyes facing upward. Spread out its roots carefully, ensuring they are not crowded or bent.
  5. Backfill with soil: Fill in around the roots with soil, gently firming it down as you go to eliminate any air pockets. Be careful not to bury the eyes too deeply.
  6. Water thoroughly: After planting, water your peony thoroughly to help settle the soil and provide hydration for the newly planted roots.
  7. Mulch around the plant: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your peony plant to help conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature.

Caring for peonies (watering, fertilizing, mulching, staking, pruning)

Caring for peonies is essential to ensure their health and vibrant blooms. Here are some important tips:

  • Watering: Peonies need regular watering, especially during dry spells. Water deeply once a week, providing about an inch of water. Avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilize peonies in early spring before they start to bloom. Use a balanced slow-release fertilizer or organic compost. Apply according to the package instructions or spread a layer of compost around the plants, being careful not to let it touch the stems.
  • Mulching: Mulching helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and maintains an even soil temperature. Apply a two-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants, making sure to keep it away from the stems.
  • Staking: Tall peony varieties may require staking to support their heavy blooms. Place stakes or peony rings around the plants early in the growing season before they become top-heavy. Secure any loose stems gently using twine or soft ties.
  • Pruning: Prune peonies in late fall after they have gone dormant. Cut back any dead or diseased foliage and remove spent flower heads. Avoid cutting back green foliage as it helps provide nutrients for next year’s blooms.

Overwintering Peonies

Learn how to properly overwinter peonies, including tips for protecting them from harsh winter conditions and preventing common pests and diseases.

How to overwinter peonies

To overwinter peonies, follow these steps:

  • Prepare the plants by cutting back the foliage to about 2-3 inches above ground level after the first frost.
  • Remove any fallen leaves or debris from the area around the plants to reduce the risk of pests and diseases.
  • Apply a layer of mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the base of the plants to protect them from freezing temperatures.
  • Water the plants thoroughly before winter to ensure they are well – hydrated going into dormancy.
  • In colder climates, consider adding a protective covering, such as burlap or a frost blanket, around the peony plants for added insulation.
  • Monitor your peonies during winter and water them if there is a period of dry weather. Be cautious not to overwater, as this can lead to rotting.
  • In early spring, remove any mulch or protective coverings once the threat of frost has passed and new growth begins to emerge.
  • As new shoots appear, ensure that they receive adequate sunlight by removing any remaining debris or mulch that may be blocking their access.

Common pests and diseases

Common pests and diseases that can affect peonies include:

  1. Botrytis blight: This fungal disease causes gray mold on the leaves, stems, and flowers of peonies. It thrives in humid conditions and can be prevented by providing good air circulation and avoiding overhead watering.
  2. Peony wilt: This disease is caused by a fungus that attacks the vascular system of the plant, leading to wilting and browning of leaves and stems. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent spread.
  3. Aphids: These small insects feed on the sap of peony plants, causing distorted growth and yellowing leaves. They can be controlled with insecticidal soap or by attracting natural predators like ladybugs.
  4. Japanese beetles: These beetles feed on peony foliage, causing skeletonized leaves and reduced plant vigor. Handpicking or using pheromone traps can help control their populations.
  5. Scale insects: These tiny pests attach themselves to the stems or leaves of peonies, sucking sap from the plant. They can be controlled with horticultural oil sprays or insecticidal soaps.
  6. Nematodes: These microscopic worms can cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and poor flower production in peonies. Planting nematode-resistant varieties and practicing good soil hygiene can help prevent infestation.
  7. Viral diseases: Peonies are susceptible to several viral diseases, including ringspot virus, mosaic virus, and leaf curl virus. Infected plants should be promptly removed to prevent further spread.
  8. Slugs and snails: These mollusks feed on the foliage of peonies, leaving behind holes and slime trails. Bait traps or handpicking can help control their populations.
  9. Red ants: Some species of ants are attracted to the sweet nectar secreted by peony buds, which can cause the buds to fail to open. Applying sticky traps or using ant baits can help deter them from the plants.
  10. Deer and rabbits: These animals may feed on peony plants, causing damage to leaves, stems, and flowers. Fencing or using repellents can help protect peonies from herbivores.

Frequently Asked Questions About Peonies

Where can I buy peonies? Can peonies be grown in containers? What are some companion plants for peonies? How do I transplant peonies?

Where to buy peonies

When it comes to buying peonies for your garden, there are several options available. One option is to visit a local nursery or garden center, where you can find a variety of peony plants to choose from.

You can also consider ordering peonies online from reputable nurseries or specialty flower bulb retailers. This allows you to have a wider selection and the convenience of having them delivered right to your doorstep.

Additionally, keep in mind that some farmers markets or botanical gardens may also sell peony plants during certain times of the year. So whether you prefer shopping in person or online, finding beautiful peonies for your garden should be relatively easy!

Growing peonies in containers

Peonies can also be grown successfully in containers, making them a versatile addition to any garden or patio. When growing peonies in containers, it is important to choose a container that is at least 16 inches deep and wide to allow for proper root development.

Use well-draining potting soil and place the container in a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Water consistently, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Remember to fertilize regularly during the growing season to promote healthy growth and abundant blooms. With proper care, peonies can thrive in containers and provide stunning beauty wherever they are planted.

[Growing peonies in containers]

Peonies can be grown successfully in containers as well, offering flexibility for those with limited garden space or who want to add color to their patios or balconies. When choosing a container for peony cultivation, opt for one that is at least 16 inches deep and wide enough for proper root development.

Companion plants for peonies

Peonies can be complemented with a variety of companion plants that enhance the beauty of the garden and provide additional interest. Here are some excellent companion plants for peonies:

  1. Daylilies: Daylilies have similar growing conditions as peonies and their vibrant blooms add color and texture to the flower bed.
  2. Siberian Iris: These tall, elegant flowers create a stunning contrast when planted alongside peonies, especially when their colors complement each other.
  3. Lamb’s Ear: The soft, silver-gray foliage of lamb’s ear makes it an ideal backdrop for the bold blooms of peonies.
  4. Salvia: The upright growth habit and intense colors of salvia flowers make them a fantastic choice for planting near peonies, adding height and drama to the garden.
  5. Alliums: These globe-shaped flowers bloom in late spring or early summer, providing a striking contrast to the large, showy peony blossoms.
  6. Nepeta (Catmint): Catmint is a low-maintenance plant with delicate blue or purple flowers that complements the soft pastel shades of many peony varieties.
  7. Phlox: With their clusters of fragrant flowers in various colors, phlox creates a beautiful display when planted alongside peonies.
  8. Echinacea (Coneflowers): Coneflowers attract pollinators to the garden and their daisy-like blooms create a lovely mix with peony flowers.
  9. Veronica (Speedwell): The spiky flower spikes of veronica add vertical interest to the garden, blending well with the fullness of peony blooms.
  10. Geraniums: Hardy geraniums provide a perfect ground cover around peony plants, filling in gaps while offering pops of color.

Transplanting peonies

Transplanting peonies can be done to relocate or divide existing plants. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when transplanting your peonies:

  1. Choose the right time: The best time to transplant peonies is in the fall, after the foliage has died back. This allows the plant to focus its energy on establishing new roots rather than producing flowers.
  2. Dig carefully: Start by digging a wide circle around the entire plant, making sure not to damage any of the roots. Peonies have extensive root systems, so it’s important to dig deep enough to capture all of them.
  3. Lift and separate: Once you have dug up the entire plant, carefully lift it out of the ground and shake off any excess soil. If you’re dividing the plant, gently pull apart the clumps, ensuring that each division has at least three to five eyes (buds).
  4. Prepare the new location: Before replanting your peonies, prepare their new location by loosening the soil and adding compost or well-rotted manure for added nutrients. Make sure the new site has good drainage and receives adequate sunlight.
  5. Replant at proper depth: When planting your peony divisions or relocated plants, make sure to place them at the same depth they were originally growing. The eyes (buds) should be positioned about 1-2 inches below the soil surface.
  6. Water thoroughly: After transplanting, water your peonies deeply to help settle the soil and provide moisture for their newly established roots.
  7. Mulch for protection: Adding a layer of organic mulch around your transplanted peonies can help retain moisture, suppress weed growth, and protect against extreme temperatures.


In conclusion, “Peony How to Plant – A Green Thumb’s Guide to Flower Gardening” provides all the necessary information and tips for successfully growing beautiful peony flowers in your garden.

With this guide, even beginners can become expert gardeners and enjoy the vibrant blooms of peonies in their landscapes, beds, or cut flower gardens. So grab your gardening tools and get ready to create a stunning garden filled with these timeless and elegant flowers.

Happy planting!


1. When is the best time to plant peonies?

The best time to plant peonies is in the fall, between September and October. This allows them to establish their root system before winter sets in.

2. How deep should I plant peony tubers?

Peony tubers should be planted approximately 2 inches below the soil surface. Ensure that the eyes (buds) of the tuber are facing upwards.

3. Do peonies require a lot of sunlight?

Yes, peonies thrive in full sun or at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Lack of sufficient sunlight can result in poor growth and fewer blooms.

4. How often should I water newly planted peonies?

After planting, water your peonies thoroughly and then continue to water them regularly until they become established. Provide enough water for moist soil, but avoid overwatering which can lead to root rot.