How to Care for a Peony Bush
The large blooms of a peony bush make quite a statement in the spring landscape, particularly when planted in groups. As a perennial, the peony bush will return each spring to pleasure the eye in the garden, vase or as part of a bridal bouquet. Booms may be white or shades of pink or red, and even two colors. Some varieties of peony bush can grow 3 feet wide and tall. A peony bush can be planted in the ground or in a pot.
Choose a planting location that is well-drained and receives at least 6 hours of sun during the summer. The best time to plant is in the fall. Dig the hole 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep to loosen up the soil. Mix about 25 percent organic material to the dirt removed from the hole. Organic material can be something like compost, manure, leaf fold or sphagnum peat moss.
Place peony bush from the pot or division from another peony bush so the eyes (buds) are no more than 1 to 2 inches below ground level. Push the dirt firmly as you back fill the hole.
Water deeply after planting and again every 10 days unless it rains and until the first frost, at which time the plant should be dormant. During the summer, water the same time that you water other plants, about every 10 days.
Cut off blooms after they have faded. Keep in mind that it can take a newly planted peony bush up to 3 years to produce blooms. To encourage larger blooms, cut off buds branching from the side of a stem. If cutting blooms for bouquets, make the cut so at least 2 leaves remain on the stem of the peony bush.
Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch, keeping it a couple of inches away from the base of the peony bush. Remove weeds by hand-pulling.
Cut the top back to 2 inches above ground in the fall. Cover the cut-back peony with mulch, then remove the mulch from top of the bush in the spring.
Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer to an established peony bush (been in the ground for at least 3 years) after the flowers have bloomed.
Divide the plant in October if the peony bush as gotten too large (which could take up to 15 years of growth) or if other plants in the area start to block the sun and space of the peony bush (or move the offending plants). First cut off the top of the peony bush about 2 inches above ground. Dig up the peony bush and divide it so each part to be replanted has at least three eyes (buds) showing near the crown, which is where the trunk meets the roots. Those eyes should be planted no more than 2 inches below ground.
Ants crawling on the buds of a peony bush will not harm the flowers.