Herbaceous Peonies are among my favorite flowers. Peonies are easy to grow and will reward you with armfuls of luscious blooms every May-June. Once established, the only care they need is to have the old foliage cut back in fall.
Select a sunny, well-draining spot in your garden for peonies. Be sure to give them space to grow as well as this perennial grows to shrub-like proportions in a single season. Having said that, herbaceous peonies really do play well with others in your perennial borders and combine well with roses and clematis.
The only "trick" to herbaceous peonies is to not plant them too deep. When you get a peony root division, you will see the red-ish "eyes" (new emerging plants). Plant them with the tips of the roots pointed downward andthe eyes set just an inch or so below the surface of the soil. Amend the planting hole with peat. Then mulch it over with leaf compost. Do not add in any fertilizer.
Herbaceous peonies are shallow-rooted so try not to dig or bother the plants too much around their crown area. When you weed, just cut them off at the soil level.
You may have to give the heavy blooms some staking and support, but I find I cut them at the bud stage to enjoy indoors often enough to not have to worry about the characteristic peony flop.
If an early summer storm is brewing and your peony is in full bloom, run out and cut all the blossoms that you can as a hard rain can often pummel and destroy these beautiful flowers. So disappointing to go out after a storm and see your peonies beaten to mush!
Mid- to late-autumn is the best time to prune back the peony foliage to within a couple inches above the soil.
Peonies don't need dividing and they actually resent being disturbed. But, if you want to separate and share them, do so in early fall for the best results.
Pictured above is 'Do Tell' peony at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC.
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