Peony plants single and double blooms in vibrant colors. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall and spread 3 to 4 feet wide. As of 2010, over 30 species of peonies exist in the world. It’s not uncommon for peonies to live more than 50 years. Established peonies are drought tolerant and low maintenance.
Peonies require six hours of sunlight per day. Dig holes for the peonies 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide. Space the peonies 24 to 36 inches apart to prevent overcrowding. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around peonies' roots to help retain moisture.
Soil requirements for peonies include a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0. Garden centers and extension services offer soil testing kits and references. Peonies prefer well-drained soil. If needed, add sand, compost or peat moss to the soil to help improve drainage qualities.
Water peonies every 10 to 14 days. After watering, the soil should feel damp throughout, but not water-soaked. Summer requires additional watering needs, as the soil dries out faster. After the peonies become established, watering needs will decrease as the plants become more drought-tolerant.
Fertilize peonies twice a year: once in the spring, and once in the summer. Use a fertilizer on peonies that's low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus and potassium, to encourage blooming. Do not let the fertilizer leak on the peonies’ foliage, as this may cause fertilizer burn and damage or kill the peonies.
Diseases peonies are susceptible to include botrytis blight, phytophthora blight, leaf blotch and stem spots. Signs of these diseases include shriveled buds, black foliage, brown spots and failure to bloom.
Removing weak or diseased limbs helps prevent the spread of disease to the peonies. Clean shears or tools used for pruning peonies with a bleach solution to further prevent the spread of disease. Replace the mulch around peonies each growing season to lessen the chance of disease transmittal to the plant.
While peonies live many years, it often takes two to three years before seeing a single bloom. Proper care of peonies for the first few years establishes strong roots, helping the plant thrive for years to come.