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How to Fertilize a Peony

By Lisa Parris ; Updated September 21, 2017

Peonies are voluptuous, hardy perennials that bear colorful, fragrant flowers each spring. By planting different varieties the blooming period can be extended well into the summer, allowing gardeners to enjoy the heady fragrance for several months rather than several weeks. The color of the peony blooms range from pure white to sunny yellow, from pale pink and mauve to brilliant red, ensuring there is at least one variety that will enhance the appearance of your garden. The oversized flowers are costly, in terms of resources- if you want big blossoms, you’ll have to feed your peonies on a regular basis.

Work two tablespoons of granular fertilizer into the top layer of soil surrounding each plant. Peony roots are shallow, so it isn’t necessary to do more than scratch the surface of the surrounding soil to ensure the fertilizer will be effective. Choose a formula that is higher in phosphate and potassium that it is in nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number of the formula) and apply it in the early spring and again in the fall.

Place well-rotted manure or compost around the base of each plant, if you’d prefer a more natural approach to feeding. As it decomposes, the organic chemical compounds will be released and will enrich and improve the structure of the soil. This will enable the peony to draw essential elements for growth and development up through the roots.

Save the ashes from your fireplace, if you have one, and you can feed your peonies without spending a dime. Potash contains potassium, which encourages root growth, assists in photosynthesis and decreases the dehydration which leads to wilting. Combine two cups of ashes with two cups of bone meal and work it into the soil around the base of each plant in the early spring.

Apply a liquid fertilizer, if you’d rather not get your hands dirty. Liquids are absorbed through the plants exterior, so there is no need to mix them into the soil. Mix one ounce of fish or seaweed fertilizer into one gallon of water and sprinkle the solution directly onto the foliage every two to three weeks


Things You Will Need

  • Granular fertilizer
  • Manure or compost
  • Ashes
  • Bone meal
  • Fish fertilizer
  • Water


  • Choose only one method of fertilization as overfeeding a peony can be just as harmful as underfeeding it and can lead to a reduction in both flowers and growth.


  • Do not allow granular fertilizer or compost to come into direct contact with the plant's main stems or roots as this can cause a chemical burn which can injure or even ruin your peony.

About the Author


Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.