Peonies, from the Paeoniaceae family, are herbaceous perennials that create large, lacy blooms and smooth, dark green foliage. Peony plants can be bush, tree or intersectional (cross of bush and tree) in form and produce different types of blooms, including single, semi-double, full-double, japanese and bomb. These show-stopping plants make for excellent accents along fences and walls or as a low-lying hedge.
Newly planted peonies need nutrient-dense, well-draining soil to establish a strong root structure. Amend soil with compost or enriched topsoil at a depth of 2 feet before planting. Plant new peonies at a depth of 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface with the eyes (red buds) facing upward.
Peonies enjoy full sunlight and may fail to bloom properly if they don't get enough. Space plants at least 2 feet from walls, and give them a 3-foot diameter of space from other plants.
Peonies do best, new or divided, when planted in the fall before cold weather arrives. This allows them to establish the root system.
Peonies have voracious appetites and will appreciate a feeding in the spring and fall of each year. Work a high-quality 5-10-5 fertilizer into the soil surrounding each plant at a distance of 12 inches from the stems. If you wish to use composted manure, it must be well-rotted before use, as fresh manure will encourage root decay.
Peonies are fairly self-sufficient once they are established. Water each planting hole thoroughly when the plant is set. During growth, give peonies about 1 inch of water per week, keeping soil moist but not soggy. After peony plants are grown, they can tolerate the utmost neglect and get sufficient moisture from rainfall.
Peonies expand throughout the course of their lives and eventually require division in order to continue thriving. If peonies fail to bloom or if blooms are substantially reduced, it is a sure sign that they need some space. In the fall, cut stems down to ground level, then use a spading fork to carefully lift the root clump from the ground. Wash off remaining soil, then use a sharp knife or spade to divide the clumps, ensuring that there are at least 3 to 5 buds in each dividing clump. Replant divisions immediately.