Peonies, from the Paeoniaceae family, are classified according to bloom construction. Single, double, semi-double, anemone and Japanese peony varieties produce large, multi-layered flowers in every color except blue. Herbaceous, garden-variety peonies can grow over 3 feet in height with a 4-foot spread while tree peony varieties reach heights of 5 feet or more. Hardy in zones 2 through 8, peonies are permanent plants that live for decades and, in the case of tree peonies, centuries.
Choose a location that offers at least 6 hours of full sun per day, with dappled shade during the afternoon, for productive blooming.
Ensure soil health at the planting site by incorporating equal amounts of organic matter, including compost, pine needles or well-rotted manure, and coarse sand. La Pivoinerie D'Aoust Peony Nursery advises that fresh manure may burn peony plants, so make certain that it is well-rotted and kept away from the stems and foliage.
Plant new peonies in the fall, September through October, in order for feeder roots to become successfully established. It can take up to three years after planting for peonies to bloom for the first time, so patience is a necessity.
Plant peonies so that the tips of the buds are no more than 1 inch below the soil surface. Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service notes that failure to bloom is often caused when peonies are planted too deeply.
Apply a 5-10-10 fertilizer, according to manufacturer's directions, each spring when stems emerge and reach a height of 2 to 3 inches. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service recommends a rate of 1/2 cup per plant, gently incorporated into the soil surrounding the plant.
Keep competition with other plants to a minimum, especially those with larger root systems, such as trees and shrubs.
Remove blooms after flowering is complete to eliminate seed development. This will allow all nutrients and energy to be focused on the existing plant and increase production in subsequent seasons.