A herbaceous perennial, peony plants offer a long garden lifespan of over 100 years with proper care. Plant heights ranges from 20 to 36 inches. Flowers appear single, double and semi-double in May and June. Numerous varieties offer outstanding fragrance. All blossoms make ideal cut flowers. All peony varieties but the tree peony die-back during the wintertime to return each spring.
The peony enjoys a cool garden setting. Most varieties require between 100 to 300 chilling hours during the winter months. These cold requirements make the peony a poor choice for tropical and subtropical garden locations. The plants generally do well in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 2 to 8, according to the University of Rhode Island.
The peony plant tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. They prefer well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. The tuberous root system of the peony will quickly rot if exposed to flooded soil conditions. Adding organic material to the garden soil at the time of planting will benefit the peony's overall health. Avoid placing peonies close to trees or large, aggressive shrubs because the competition for nutrients will greatly diminish the peony plant's blossom number and size.
Plant peony plants in the fall months. After planting, many peony varieties require 3 to 5 years to flower. Planting in the fall allows the root system of the peony to begin establishing itself before the hard winter freeze.
Peony plants benefit from having their buds pinched. One main terminal bud forms on the peony plant and is encircled with smaller buds. Allowing all the buds to flower will decrease their size dramatically. Removing all buds but the main terminal bud will allow the flower to attain a far greater size and help its overall appearance.
Large flowers often weigh down the peony plant's stem, and the flower sinks into the garden soil. Strong winds can also break the slender stems of the peony plant. Staking the flower heads as they blossom will greatly reduce damage to the plant and the flower during rain or in a windstorm.