Peonies are one of the most popular flowering plants grown for their showy flowers and ornamental leaves. These beautiful perennials produce a single, large flower head with many curling, petal-like segments in a variety of colors. The genus peony was named after the Greek word for poppy, which may have been because the flowers resemble the petals of a poppy. They are native to China and were introduced to Europe in the 16th century.
Some characteristics of Peonies include:
- The peony plant is considered an herbaceous perennial and typically blooms for 8 weeks.
- Most varieties flower in spring, but there are also summer flowering varieties which bloom in late June or July.
- Most cultivars grow to about 2-4 feet tall, although some can grow up to 8 feet. -The leaves are large and dark green on top with lighter undersides that roll up tightly as they age.
- Entire peonies are often used as cut flowers while the petals or leaves can be used for decoration around the home or in the garden.
- The showy flowers typically have a perfumed, clove-like fragrance.
Planting And Care Of Peonies
Peonies are hardy plants and can grow in most soil conditions but prefer moist soil that isn't too deep or dusty. Peonies are usually sold as bare-root tubers or in containers, where they are typically 3-4 years old. Planting peonies is not difficult if the weather is not too hot or cold. They can be planted in early spring or fall as long as the soil has warmed up enough for planting in the spring or it has cooled down enough for planting in the fall.
For optimum growth, they should be planted within an hour of being removed from their pots. Peonies can grow well in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8. They need at least six hours of sunlight per day and soil with good drainage to survive. If you live in a southern or southwestern region, afternoon shade is ideal.
Dividing And Transplanting Peonies
Approximately every 10 to 15 years, you might need to divide your peony, so it does not get overcrowded. Pruning your peonies will make them healthier and also give them more space. The best time to divide your peonies is during their dormant period, which is typically from November through early April.
Gardeners transplant peonies after dividing their plants or if they are moving and want to take the plant with them or share the peony with family or a friend.
Here are 8 steps for dividing and transplanting peonies:
Step 1 – Prune the leafy stems to near ground level. Cut them back to 2 to 3 inches tall.
Step 2 – Dig a foot away from the plant stems. You do not want to be too close as you can damage the root ball of the plant. Dig around and beneath the plant. Be careful to cut as few roots as you can.
Step 3 – Use a shovel to loosen the soil and lift out the peony clump from the hole. If you can’t get it out easily, you need to loosen the soil more.
Step 4 – Once the peony root ball is out, place it on a tarp. Shake the plant to get more of the soil to fall away from the roots. If you want, you can use a hose to rinse off the roots. Rinsing off the roots allows you to see the roots and buds easily.
Step 5 – Either use your hands or a sharp knife and divide the peonies into sections or divisions. Each section needs to have 3 to 5 eyes, buds, or growing points. A bud is a place on the root that produces the stems and leaves. They look like small white or pink eyes on the root ball. If your plant has a total amount of 3 to 5 eyes, it does not need to be divided.
Step 6 – Allow the different sections to dry out and callus (form a hard layer), before replanting. This will help with the prevention of root rot. This step will take several days.
Step 7 – Replant your peonies.
Step 8 – Dig a hole for the section you want to plant and make sure the eyes on the root ball are placed a few inches below the soil. You do not want to put it too deep below the soil. After you get it in the ground, water it well. Continue to water it regularly until the ground freezes.
Here is a short video that shows you have to Divide and Transplant A Peony
Remember peonies do not like to be moved, so don’t do this procedure often. You might also experience your plant not blooming the year after you move it, so don’t get worried if this happens.
Let us know if you have any peony tips!