Seeds, fertilizer, varieties, spring, fall
A perennial hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 to 7, black-eyed Susans bloom on repeat throughout summer and fall (in mild climates). Other summer annual favorites include zinnia, marigold and cornflower. For fall, try the dramatic drooping blooms of yarrow.
Peonies are one of those classic, old-fashioned flowers that are having a moment, and with good reason! Their huge, showy blooms are breathtaking and perfect for the maximalist garden with their lush, romantic feel. Even better? Growing peonies is easy because they’re some of the best low-maintenance perennials you can plant. In fact, peonies can live for more than 100 years! This makes them a great investment for your garden.
Native to Asia, peonies need cold weather in order to bloom, so they grow best in USDA Hardiness zones 3 to 8 (find your zone here). They don’t do well in hot climates. Peonies range in height from a few feet tall to four or even five feet tall and come in varieties with single, semi-double, and double petals. Peonies also are a deer-resistant plant, so they’re a great perennial if Bambi is a frequent garden visitor.
Peonies bloom from late spring through June, depending on the variety and where you live. After the blooms fade, the attractive foliage lasts all season, adding interest to mixed borders and garden beds. Many types of peonies are very fragrant with a scent that can range from spicy to sweet. They also come in an array of shades including white, coral, cream, crimson, hot pink, peachy pink, and bright yellow. Peonies make lovely cut garden flowers, too.
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Here’s what else you need to know about growing peonies:
What kinds of peonies are there?
There are three main types: Herbaceous peonies, which die back to the ground in the fall and are the easiest type to grow; tree peonies, which have a bushy shape and woody stems that don’t die back in the fall. They shed their leaves like other deciduous shrubs; and Itoh peonies, also called intersectional peonies, which are a hybrid of the first two types. They also die back to the ground in winter.
How do I plant peonies?
Plant peonies in full sun, which is considered at least six or more hours of direct sunlight per day. They don’t produce flowers well in shade gardens, though the flowers will last longer with afternoon shade if you live in a hot climate.
Peonies don’t like soggy conditions, so make sure your soil drains well. Also, don’t plant them too close to other perennials or trees because they will have to compete for water and nutrients.
If it’s a bare root peony plant (with no soil attached), plant the tuber about an inch or two below ground. Fall is the best time to plant bare root peonies. For potted peonies, plant them in a hole that’s about twice the width of the pot and at the same depth it was in the container. Plant potted peonies as soon as you buy them. In either case, add some general purpose fertilizer to the hole when planting, and water them well. Once established, peonies are drought tolerant.
Do peonies need ants to bloom?
Nope! That’s a common myth, but the ants are there only to gather nectar from the buds. They won’t hurt the plant, and peonies don’t need ants in order to bloom. And planting peonies near the house won’t invite ants into your house; the type of ants that like peonies don’t live indoors.
When can I cut peonies for bouquets?
If you like, you can cut your peonies for bouquets when they’re in the “marshmallow” stage, when the buds have a little color but feel slightly squishy. Just shake out the ants or rinse them off before bringing your flowers indoors. Cut peonies should last about five or more days in the vase if kept cool and out of direct sunlight. If you cut peonies when fully open, they’ll only last about two days.
How do I care for peonies?
Fortunately, peonies need very little TLC from you with a few minor notes: Herbaceous peonies may need staked with peony hoops to keep the large flowers from flopping over. If it’s super-dry, it’s not a bad idea to water peonies during bud formation and flowering. Finally, when blooms fade, deadhead, or cut off, the seed heads to allow the plant to store more energy for next year’s bloom.
Should I cut back peonies?
Herbaceous peonies should be cut back to within a few inches of the ground in the fall after the first hard freeze. Remove any foliage and toss (don’t compost it) to reduce the risk of diseases overwintering. Tree peonies should never be cut back.
Why didn’t my peonies bloom?
- You may get peonies the first year you plant, but it often takes them a few seasons to get going. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with blooms in subsequent years.
- Another reason peonies don’t bloom is because they were planted them too deep or are covered with too much mulch. They need to be planted about two inches beneath the surface.
- They also won’t bloom if they don’t get enough sun, or if they’re crowded by other perennials and trees.
- Buds also may be killed by a late frost or too much heat.
Despite these occasional issues, most peonies are super-easy to grow and well worth adding to your perennial garden. Few other perennials have such opulent blooms or such enduring beauty that will last a lifetime and, in fact, become an heirloom plant for the next generation.
Arricca Elin SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more. She’s passionate about gardening, baking, reading, and spending time with the people and dogs she loves.