Peonies are flowering perennial plants that produce large fragrant blooms of various colors during the spring. The two most common types of peonies grown for the home garden are tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) and garden peonies (Paeonia valbiflora or Paeonia officinalis). Peonies can grow to heights of between 2 and 4 feet in sunny locations, and, according to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticultural Program, have few pests or disease problems.
Mulch the plant bed in early spring. Applying 2 to 3 inches of organic garden mulch controls weed growth and keeps the peonies from drying out during the hot summer months.
Fertilize the peonies with a low-nitrogen, 5-10-10 fertilizer when stems reach 2 to 3 inches in height. The fertilizer can be purchased at local nurseries, home improvement centers, or hardware stores, and comes in granulated or liquid forms. After reading the instructions on the label thoroughly, apply with a hand-held spreader or garden sprayer as necessary.
Trim unnecessary buds. Peonies will produce larger blooms if the side buds are removed with pruning shears as soon as they appear on the stems.
Stake the plants. Peonies will produce large fragrant flowers that can cause the stems to become top-heavy and bend or break. Place stakes behind the plants, wrap stems loosely with plastic-coated garden ties, then wrap around the stakes.
Cut off dead or dying blooms. Faded flowers should be cut just below the blooms with pruning shears to prevent seed development.
Remove mulch in late fall with a rake. Peonies need exposure to cold temperatures to bloom properly in the spring. Removing the mulch also helps prevent the occurrence of soil-borne diseases.