Caring for perennial peonies — the most important information about the popular perennial

In the right location, perennial peonies are perennials that want to be in the same place for generations and delight with magnificent flowers that return every year. The flower shape and color are reminiscent of roses, but the robust plants belong to the peony family. Breeding keeps creating new varieties, some of which impress with spectacular flowers or a fine fragrance.

The long-lived ornamental plant drives out reliably in spring and after just a few weeks the plant is in full bloom. Peonies are predestined as perennials alone or in combination with low-growing plants. Perennial peonies get more beautiful every year. They differ from the tree or shrub peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), which belong to the woody plants and are woody.

Interesting facts about the peony

Botanical name: Paeonia officinalis, Paeonia lactiflora, Paeonia hybrids Other names: perennial peony, peony, farmer’s peony Use: perennial, cut flower Origin: Asia and Europe Flowering period: early May to early June (depending on location and variety) Flower colors: red, pink, white , cream-white, two-tone, single and double flowers Special features:

long-lived and hardy perennial, one of the oldest garden plants ever

Where is the best peony location?

The peony location for all species should be sunny to semi-shady. If the peony is too shady, the perennial will sprout, but the formation of flowers is severely restricted. In sunny locations it is important that young plants receive proper care in the first few years after planting. Above all, this includes need-based watering and sufficient nutrient supplies. Well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6 is ideal for vigorous growth. Sandy, loamy soils are ideal because waterlogging is not tolerated. Heavy clay soils with standing water are unfavorable. Light sandy soils do not store enough water and are therefore not suitable for the genus. Find the right peony location in your garden now.

How can I plant my peonies?

The best time to plant your peonies is in spring. Well-rooted specimens grow quickly and with a bit of luck you will soon be able to enjoy the first bud. Autumn planting is possible, but not recommended in harsh locations. In addition, in autumn the flowers are already in the phase of settling in and are therefore visually less attractive.

Instructions for planting:

  • Depending on the variety, you should plan an area of ​​60 x 60 to 80 x 80 cm per plant to plant your peony.
  • Initially, this area is not needed, but over the years there is enough space for the plant to develop.
  • The planting hole should have a diameter and a depth of 50 cm.

On soils that tend to become waterlogged, it is advisable to fill in a drainage layer. When planting, use 5 to 10 liters of potting soil and plant the rootstock so deep that it is 3 to 5 cm covered with soil. Planting and flowering suffer if planted too deep.

Transplanting peonies — worth knowing and tips

Transplanting peonies is a very sensitive issue. If possible, the classic perennials should be in the same place for many years. This is the only way for them to develop into magnificent plants with a large number of flowers. Peonies prefer to grow undisturbed and transplanting should only be done in an emergency. If the vitality decreases or the garden is redesigned, the peonies can be transplanted in late summer/autumn. It is important that you carefully cut off the largest possible bale with a spade and transplant the peonies. Avoid leaving the perennial dug up for too long.

Replant the peony directly with good quality potting soil. Large specimens can also be divided when transplanting. The rhizome-like storage organ can be divided into two or three sections with a spade and planted individually. Be careful not to plant the rootstock too deep when transplanting the peony. After transplanting, it usually takes two years for the plants to flower luxuriantly again. The perennials grow well after transplanting. It is important that the soil is evenly moist after transplanting. Waterlogging should never occur, but there should also be no extreme dryness. A little finesse is required when watering until the peony has established itself at the new location.

How do I care for my perennial peony?

Especially with freshly planted peonies, it is important that you water them as needed. This means that additional watering is necessary in phases with little precipitation. How often you need to water depends on temperatures, size and soil conditions. As a guideline: give 5 to 10 liters of water per plant and wait a few days before watering the next time.

When using high-quality potting soil, fertilizing is not necessary in the first year. From the second year of growth, fertilize in the spring with a special perennial fertilizer as soon as they sprout. A second fertilization with organic garden fertilizer takes place after flowering. In this way, the plants get through the summer with the best care and store enough energy for the coming year. Only sufficiently fertilized specimens flower reliably year after year. You should avoid pruning Paeonia. Basically, peony care is very simple and minimal, the less you do to the plants, the better it is. Above all, you should avoid pruning.

How do I prune my peonies?

A pruning is not necessary for the herbaceous garden perennials. The flowering plants have a harmonious structure, and after flowering, the leaves are needed for assimilation. Try to avoid pruning your peony as much as possible, because if you cut too many stems or too deep, the peony will not have the vigor for the next year. It is ideal if you only cut the withered flowers, but be very cautious, because the foliage should be preserved as much as possible. On older plants you can easily cut some flowers for the vase, but faded flowers should only be shortened a little. In contrast to other perennials, Paeonia does not tolerate too much pruning. Basically, pruning does more harm than good. In autumn the aerial parts die off and the plant survives the winter as a dormant bud in the rootstock. So be very careful when cutting peonies.

What are the most well-known species of perennial peonies?

Paeonia officinalis

The species, also known as farmer’s peony, garden peony or real peony, can be found as a classic in many old gardens. Since it was also used for medicinal purposes, it had its place in monastery gardens for a long time. The flowers, like all species, have a single bloom of pink, red, white, or purple, with golden-yellow stamens in the center. The best-known double variety is «Rubra Plena», which with its bright red color reliably delights not only nostalgics year after year.

Paeonia lactiflora

In terms of growth and requirements, this species, also known as Chinese peony, can hardly be distinguished from the usual species. The perennials came to Europe from China at the end of the 18th century and were propagated by plant collectors and crossed with other varieties. The variety of flowers varies from dark red, red, pink, white to light yellow. Some varieties surprise with a fine fragrance and are therefore ideal near seating areas and paths. The flowers are simple, double or semi-double. A very special variety is «Festiva Maxima», which has a strong filling with large flowers in white with red speckles and a stunning scent.

Information about the genus of peonies:

The botanical name is Paeoniae, which is why the peony is sometimes also referred to as Paeonia. The peony genus is divided into two different groups:

Perennial peony, common peony, farmer’s peony

Tree Peony, Tree Peony

Paeonia officinalis and Paeonia lactiflora Paeonia suffruticosa


herbaceous plants with thickened rootstock forms woody branches and twigs

Parts above ground are completely retracted in winter, ie not visible Plant only sheds its leaves in winter, the shrub is visible

sprouts from the rootstock in spring sprouts from the buds on the bush

Soil can be calcareous (pH 7.0 to 8.0)Soil should be slightly acidic to alkaline (pH 5.5 to 7.5)

Height of growth 70 to 100 cm Height of growth 1.5 to 2 m

Pink, red, and white flowersPink, red, white, and yellow flowers

What Pests and Diseases Can My Peony Get?

With the right site conditions, peonies are robust and easy-care garden plants. Below are some possible problems.

ant infestation

A sugar-like coating forms on the buds before they open. This often attracts ants, which, however, do not damage the bud and flower.

leaf spot

Brown, round spots form on older leaves in late summer. Paeonia are particularly affected by this fungal disease in damp weather and in partially shaded locations. Fighting is usually not necessary. Cut off the affected leaves and dispose of them with household waste. To strengthen the plants, we recommend a preventive treatment with organic active agents for plants susceptible to mildew and fungi in the coming year. The right time for prophylaxis is at the beginning of April.

FAQ — Frequently asked questions about perennial peonies

Why is my perennial peony not blooming?

Possible reasons for a lack of flowering on perennial peonies can be:

Plant was freshly planted or transplanted to a new location. Patience is now required, because it sometimes takes 2 to 3 years for the lush flowering to take place.

Furthermore, a strong pruning in the last year can be the cause. The leaves are needed to store the storage substances in the roots. Therefore, only remove the withered flowers, protect the foliage and never cut.

Perhaps the peony is not in the optimal location. It must not be too dark and shady.

Can I plant a peony in the same spot where there was already a peony?

Similar to roses, peonies should never be planted in the same spot one after the other. Due to the so-called soil fatigue, the newly planted perennial would not develop optimally. Other plants can easily be planted on the site.

Which plants are suitable in combination with perennial peonies?

Garden sage, columbines, hostas, lady’s mantle, delphiniums, cranesbills or irises create beautiful combinations.

Can perennial peonies be propagated?

It is quite possible to divide perennial peonies in the fall. It is important that each piece has at least three eyes. The divided plants should not be planted too deep and with a little patience you will have several peonies in your home garden in a few years.

When is the peony flowering time?

The peony flowering period is from May to June.
Depending on the weather, the peonies bloom as early as the beginning of May, in cooler areas only at the end of May/beginning of June.

What does the peony mean in the language of flowers?

There are a variety of meanings for peonies. In addition to cheerfulness, the most important are wealth and love. The symbolism varies depending on the cultural background. In China, the peony has been an integral part of traditions for over 3000 years.

Care calendar for perennials

A perennial garden is beautiful and, with the right selection, can bloom from early spring to late fall. Here you can find out when which work is necessary in the perennial garden so that your perennials develop magnificently.

When do you have to cut the peony?

In contrast to other perennials, Paeonia does not tolerate too much pruning. Basically, pruning does more harm than good.

Planting peonies in the garden

In our video we show you step by step how to plant your peonies in your own garden.

Care calendar for perennials

A perennial garden is beautiful and, with the right selection, can bloom from early spring to late fall. Here you can find out when which work is necessary in the perennial garden so that your perennials develop magnificently.

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