Complete guide on growing peonies. Everything from soil conditions to USDA zones to the ants that love peonies too. Including how and when to cut peonies for vases so you can enjoy them indoors. And most importantly, what you can do if your peonies just won’t bloom!
Peonies season is here!!! My favorite time of the year!
Now, every year when peony season rolls around I get tons of questions about peony care and how to grow them, so I thought I’d put all my answers in one place and give you some tips on how you can grow peonies too.
If you live in a state that is too hot to grow these babies, my deepest condolences.
Tips For How To Grow Peonies:
It’s All About The Zones: Peonies grow well in Zones 2-8, which means they require at least 30 consecutive days of freezing temps in the winter. No deep freeze, no go.
If you don’t know your USDA Zone ((gasp!)), you can check it out on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. You just input your zipcode and it spits out your Zone. Here in Central Ohio I am in Zone 6a.
They Love Their Sun: 6-8 hours of sun per day minimum. But if by chance you are lucky enough to live in a much warmer climate, the peonies will appreciate some afternoon shade. And when I say appreciate, I mean they won’t wither away and die on you and break your heart.
The Dirt On Peonies: They enjoy well drained soil. If you have clay, you’ll need to amend the soil a bit.
The Depth Of My Love: Peonies that are planted too deep (or even think they are planted too deep) will not bloom. Be careful with putting too much mulch around the base of the plants, because that can trick them into thinking they are deeper than they are. I never said peonies were smart.
Plant bare root peonies (peonies where the soil has been removed from around the tuber) no deeper than 2″ below the soil line. Peonies that comes in pots can be planted with the soil of the pot even with the ground’s soil line.
Flower Me With Flowers: Peonies do not often bloom the first spring after planting. Depending how big they were when you planted them, it could take up to three years for them to bloom. Three excruciatingly long years.
That said, I plant the peonies that have been grown in pots and I normally have one or two lonely blooms on them the first year, a couple more the second year and then the third year they take off and never look back!
When The Ants Go Marching In : Ants are your friend. Well, actually that is debatable. Some people say they help the peonies to open and others say the ants just happen to like the sweet, sweet nectar of the peonies and have no actual beneficial purpose. In either case, they don’t harm the peonies.
I just gently shake the ants off the peonies before bringing them inside. I have also heard you can dip them upside down in a bucket of cold water to get the ants off (ie drown the ants).
We Could All Use A Little Support: Like most women, most peonies need a little support and without it they will flop over onto the ground. Think of it as Spanx for your flowers. I use the basic three legged metal peony rings that stake into the ground.
And then you’ve just wasted a peony bloom, and a peony bloom is a horrible thing to waste!
Oh, Crap: Fertilize in early summer after you have deadheaded the spent blooms using a 5-10-5 blend, keeping the fertilizer 6-18″ away from the middle of the plant. The 5-10-5 refers to percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium respectively and should be listed on the fertilizer package.
Peonies are really easy to grow and care for, but occasionally they just won’t bloom.
The Top Three Reasons Why Your Peony Won’t Bloom:
- It’s planted too deep. You can raise it up a bit in the fall if you think this is the problem.
- It’s a young peony and not established yet. It may take up to three years to bloom. Be patient.
- It’s not getting enough sun. They are little sun bathers and need at least six hours of sun a day.
By the way, I had clipped off a few peonies the other day, put them in a vase and brought them inside the house for this photo.
The house had a wonderful scent. That lightly fragrant, sweet aroma of Heaven on earth that only a fresh peonies bouquet can bring.
Then when I heard that heavy rains were rolling in later that night, I ran outside in my jammies (in the rain and lightning) to rescue the remainder of the blooms, so they wouldn’t get pelted by the rain drops.
There’s nothing more depressing than waking up in the morning after a storm only to see your much anticipated peony petals strewn across the lawn.
So now I have three LARGE vases of peonies setting in my living room and Lordy, my home smells like a funeral parlor!
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but just saying, I may wake up one morning and wonder if I’ve passed over to the great beyond.
Are you a peony lover? Have you ever gone completely overboard with them in your house?
If you need to feed your gardening addiction more you can check out:
Limelight Hydrangea (love those things)
Black-eyed Susan vine (could possibly be my favorite plant to grow in the summer)
Or any of the other posts in my Gardening Archives.
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.)