By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
Peonies are perennials that have earned their title because of quality distinctions that rise the plant above other flowering shrubs. These include their large full 5- to 7-inch flowers, enticingly sweet fragrance and longevity of continued production. They are the epitome of cut flowers and the legacy of flowering shrubs. They possess attractive green foliage that remains a beautiful garden centerpiece even after the blooms are gone.
Peonies require soil that is rich, well drained and needs to be cultivated each spring. The location must provide full sunlight with a minimum of 4 to 5 hours of sunlight daily.
These bush-style plants are known to live for years, some varieties for over a hundred years, and others for a lifetime. Blooms in a vast range of color and mixed color variations appear in early summer and usually last for several weeks. The plants grow from 24 to 48 inches high and usually require staking due to the weight of the blooms.
Choosing a Variety
There are many varieties of peonies that captivate an array of color in both, single and double blooms, and they include bushes and trees. * Bush peonies (Herbaceous peony) come in a wide variety of colors, ranging from white and yellow to pink and crimson to many shades of purple. The blooms appear in late April to early May and last for several weeks. They are noted for their thick, full blooms that can appear in several shades and colurs within one bloom.* Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruiticosa) also come in a large range of colors and can live with low maintenance for over 100 years. These rare colorful tree peonies originated in China and are known as "The Emperor Flower." It can produce over 100 blooms of up to 10 inches across. When planted in loamy, well-drained soil, these trees can live indefinitely.
Plant roots in rich, cultivated and well-drained soil in early spring or late fall. Trees prefer to be planted to a depth of at least 2 feet in loamy soil with lots of organic matter. Avoid planting near large trees, which absorb the moisture and nutrients from the soil. New plants can be grown from the older ones by cutting off sections of the root in the early spring and planting in a suitable location.
They require very low maintenance. Mulch should be spread around the roots in the spring to help keep the soil moist. Most bushes will require staking in the early spring before the blooms appear.