Peonies, perennial flowering plants valued for their long life span and attractiveness after blooming, produce large, single, double or semi-double flowers in spring in shades of white, cream, yellow, pink, red, purple and even black, depending on variety. If provided with proper growing conditions, peony plants may live for 50 years or more, while developing a massive root system underground. Because of their long life, peonies may not begin blooming until the second or third year after planting. Once they start, however, flowers return year after year with only minimal care and maintenance.
Choose a planting location for peonies that receives full sunlight throughout the day. Apply a 2-inch layer of organic compost over the entire area and use a garden tiller to work the material into the soil prior to planting to increase fertility.
Use a shovel to dig a hole of equal depth and three times as wide as the root ball of the plant. Set the roots in the hole with the “eyes,” or pink buds, pointing up and gently cover with soil. Water thoroughly to initiate growth and compact the soil. Space peonies 3 to 4 feet apart.
Spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the soil surrounding peonies each spring to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. Begin the layer at least 3 inches from the base of the plants to allow air circulation. Discard the mulch during mid-fall to reduce the chance of disease.
Water peonies at a rate of 1 inch per week to provide adequate moisture for growth and flowering. Do not water peonies in weeks that receive more than 1 inch of rainfall. Reduce the frequency of watering to once every 10 days during winter.
Fertilize twice per year, once in early spring and again in early fall, using a balanced 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Apply following the instructions provided by the manufacturer and water thoroughly after application for the best results.
Remove peony flowers as soon as the petals begin to drop to decrease the risk of disease, encourage additional blossoms to form and prevent seed formation. Pinch off the flowers as close to the stems as possible to reduce damage to the plant.