Peony bushes are long-lived plants, providing large, showy flowers that brighten the landscape for generations. Although they are sturdy plants that can live with very little assistance, proper watering, fertilizing and pruning will ensure that the bushes produce lush green foliage and plenty of blooms.
Water peonies every week during the first growing season. After the first season, allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
Sprinkle an all-purpose dry fertilizer around the base of the plant in early spring, before new shoots emerge. Don’t allow the fertilizer to come in contact with the stems or leaves. When the buds are about the size of a pea, apply an all-purpose liquid fertilizer.
If the blooms become too heavy, drive a stake into the ground and tie the stem to the stake loosely with gardening twine or an old nylon stocking. This will prevent the weight of the blooms from breaking the stem. Don’t drive stakes into the middle of the plant--it can damage the tubers.
Weed the area around the peony bush; weeds crowd the plant and rob it of nutrients and water. Once the weeds have been removed, spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of peat moss around bush to keep weeds down.
Prune peony bushes in late fall, after the first frost of the season, removing all but a few inches of the shrub. Don’t prune until the leaves turn brown.
Spread 2 or 3 inches of organic mulch, such as straw, bark chips or peat moss, around the base of the bush to prepare it for winter. If you live in a climate with winter temperatures that fall into the sub-zero range, wrap burlap around the bush to protect it from wind.