Common garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) feature big, luscious blooms set atop bushy foliage in spring. Their flowers are so big, in fact, that they often fall to the ground as rainwater makes them too heavy for their stems to support. Herbaceous peonies need physical support to keep their stems upright.
Supporting peonies keeps their flowers upright, ensuring their beauty can be enjoyed. Peonies allowed to fall to the ground are not only marred aesthetically, but are also susceptible to soil-borne disease. Keeping peony blooms and foliage up in the air increases circulation, minimizing fungal problems.
Peony supports, or peony hoops, are usually circular galvanized steel cages with supporting legs placed around peonies. Similar to tomato cages, but wider and shorter, they often have a steel grid on top to keep interior stems from falling on outside stems. Sometimes peony supports are PVC-coated to minimize rusting.
The steel legs of the hoops are placed into the ground at the outside edge of the root system. Place supports in the ground as soon as peony shoots appear in spring so they will grow up and into the structure. The top hoop should be about 18 inches from the ground. If any shoots grow outside the structure, gently push them in when they are still small and flexible enough to not break.
Remove the supports after plants turn brown and wither in fall. Storing them inside during the winter minimizes rust and prolongs their useful life. If your hoops are made of expensive, heavy-gauge steel, consider scraping them each winter with course steel wool and priming with metal primer to prolong lifespan.
Tomato cages can be used in a pinch to provide support. Steel wire fencing can be bent into a cylinder and placed around peonies. For natural support, use branches stuck into the ground all around the plants.