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How to Mulch Peonies

Peonies are a perennial plant that is prized for its many colors, abundant flowers and its suitability as a bedding plant. Peonies bloom for just a few weeks in early summer, but the attractive deep green foliage provides a nice backdrop to other summer flowers.

Peonies prefer cool roots but full sun, so mulching is necessary to meet these needs. Mulch also protects the plants in winter. Proper mulching is necessary to prevent diseases such as botryllis blight that could permanently damage a peony bed.

Cut back peonies after the first fall frost and once plants begin to yellow. Cut down each plant to about 3 inches above ground level with sharp shears, taking care not to cut into the plant's crown.

Remove all the cut-back plant matter and old mulch from the bed, as it may harbor blight. Dispose of it in the trash or in a burn pile and not by composting.

Cover first-year peony beds with a 3-inch layer of straw mulch to protect them from winter chill. Cover established beds only in areas where winter temperatures freeze and thaw several times throughout the season in order to prevent frost heave, which may damage or uproot peonies.

Remove any winter mulch from the peony beds and dispose of it. Replace with a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips, around each plant to preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.

Mulch For Peonies

Peonies are classed as herbaceous plants or trees. Herbaceous peonies produce fragrant, cup-shaped flowers in a range of colors in late spring and they’re typically hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. Both types of peony have roots near the surface of the soil, which makes weeding around the plants difficult. Stone mulches do not add nutrients. Lay the mulch several inches away from the crown of herbaceous peonies. Do not use manure to mulch peonies, unless you’ve worked it into the soil for a few years prior to planting.

Tip

Place compost around each plant before replacing spring mulch. This adds nutrients to the soil and improves the bed quality.

Warning

Never compost materials removed from a peony bed, as most home compost piles do not get hot enough to destroy blight.

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