Peonies grow well in USDA plant hardiness zones that experience an extended winter period of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is needed for the peony to bloom in the spring. The blooms on peonies can be white, deep red, varying shades of pink or a combination of two colors. Capable of reaching heights and widths of 36 inches, the long stems of peony blooms can be cut for fresh or dried floral arrangements.
Types of Peonies
There are three types of peonies. The herbaceous variety dies back to the ground in late fall and will sprout up in the spring. The tree variety loses its leaves in the fall and keeps the woody stems from which new blooms will appear in early spring. Intersectional is the third variety and its foliage is a combination of the herbaceous and tree varieties. The intersectional variety dies back to the ground in late fall.
A well-drained, full sun location is best for growing peonies. Peonies can also be planted in pots. The blooms of peonies appear around April and last up to six weeks. After the blooms have faded, the deep green foliage of the peony continues to add beauty to the landscape. Water the plant every seven to 10 days spring through late summer if there is no rain.
Caring for Peonies
To help control weeds, mulch can be added around the peony, but keep the mulch away from the base of the plant. An all-purpose fertilizer can be applied in early spring. Deadheading is not necessary but spent blooms can be clipped off to improve the appearance of the peony. In late fall, the herbaceous variety of peony can be cut to the ground.
Ants on Peonies
Ants are known to trek over the rounded buds of peonies. Attracted to nectar released by the buds, the ants will collect what they need and leave the peony once it blooms. Planting a peony will not in itself attract ants; the ants will already be in the landscape. The ants cause no harm to the peony and the peony does not need to be sprayed to keep the ants away.
Uses for Peonies
When cutting buds for floral arrangements, if there ants on the stem, simply flick the stem with your finger and the ants will fall off. Cuttings from peonies can be used in bridal bouquets. The flower can also be dried by hanging the bloom upside-down by the stem, or by placing a grouping in a waterless vase and allowing the blooms to dry.