Friday, June 20, 2014

Peony or Paeonia

One of my earliest recollections of flowers has to be of the peonies (pronounced pee-uh-nees or pe-o-nees depending on which area of the country you come from). My mother had peonies. I think just about everyone's mother or grandmother had peonies.

I bet you can all remember your mother or grandmother picking peonies and bringing them in the house to adorn the table and provide a wonderful floral scent. And how many of you remember bringing a bouquet of peonies to school for the teacher??? And for the teachers out there, I bet you received lots of peonies every spring/summer for your desk.

Such a carefree plant with a beautiful fragrance and so easy to grow. To me they actually smell like a rose. And the colors- from deep reds, hot pinks, light pinks, yellow, white, and two-tone.

They are hardy from zones 3 through 8. Sorry southern Floridians-

They will grow in full sun or partial sun. Mine don't get a lot of sun, but still bloom pretty well. They like well-drained soil, but don't like it when their roots are sitting in a water-logged area. They probably don't do too well in clay soil for that reason. I have never had to fertilize my peonies. Some plants will live for over 100 years.

Not a great photo of my tree peony, but this show a peony hoop being used.
Actual size of this tree peony flower was about 8 inches across.

Peony Hoops. The peonies can look pretty messy after a hard rain or wind so the use of a peony hoop works well with them. This helps support the large blooms when they are top heavy and wet. I usually install the peony hoops when the plants are up about 10 inches and when the buds are just starting to form. It's a lot easier to put them around the peony before the plant has fully leafed out. Peony hoops are available in nurseries or at your big box stores like WalMart, Lowes, or Home Depot in the garden department. I've also used the peony hoop for other perennials that benefit from support. A double peony hoop is available for the large or taller peonies.

"Bowl of Beauty" Peony (Japanese style, single flower)
The photo above is of a peony called "Bowl of Beauty". It had never bloomed for me so I transplanted it about two years ago. This is the first year it flowered, and it only has one flower on it. I'm hoping to have a few more flowers on it next year.

If your peony hasn't bloomed it could be for several reasons.

  • If your plants are new it may take quite a few years for them to get established and bloom.
  • Your peony could be planted too deep. The eyes shouldn't be more than 2 inches below the soil. If this is the case, dig up the clump and replant it.
  • Your peonies are too crowded.
  • Buds were killed by disease. A fungal disease called Botrytis may cause the failure of the buds to develop. If your plant is severely diseased I suggested getting rid of it. If it's not too bad you could try a fungicide. 
  • The soil conditions were too dry.
  • Your mulch is too thick around your plants. Pull some of the mulch away from the plants. 
  • Not enough sunlight. If you planted your peonies several years ago, you could have trees that are now shading your plants.
  • Buds turned brown and never matured. This could possibly be from the weather. Cold and freezing temperatures after the buds have formed can damage the buds.

A good time to transplant or divide peonies is in September or October. Divide the plant into no less than three (3) eyes. Plant them no more than 2 inches below the soil.

Don't be too quick to cut back your peonies in the fall. The green leaves are storing up energy for next year's growing season. Wait until after a few hard frosts and then you can remove the foliage.

Ants and Peonies. Ants like the juice that's formed when a peony bud is developing. They do not damage the plant, and are usually gone when the flower bud opens. Of course I have brought ants into the house on peonies though.

Ants on peony bud

Tree Peonies. Tree peonies are actually shrubs with woody stems that grow from thick roots. Tree peonies are usually plants that are grafted.  Plant tree peonies with the graft union about 6 inches or more below the soil. The leaves and flowers are produced each year on new growth. These flowers are usually larger than regular peonies, but the plants themselves may not be as large.

Tree Peony flower (about 8 inches across) 

I have one tree peony. I couldn't understand why it wasn't growing very tall. I expected it to grow tall, like a "tree". After all, it's name is a "tree peony". Well, they only grow about 3 to 4 foot tall. After transplanting it a few times, and doing some additional research on it, I figured that out. But the size of the actual flower makes up for it's height. Also, you can't divide a tree peony because they are grafted. You can try propagating it from seeds. (I was going to try to collect the seeds last year, but forgot).

This year my tree peony failed to bloom. I'm guessing it has to do with our severe winter we had this past winter. If you missed my blog post from early January and the ice storm we had, here is the link to it: Welcoming in 2014. My tree peony has leafed out and appears to be very healthy so maybe next year I might have to protect it a little better. The photos of my tree peony in this post were taken last year.

"Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are."
~Alfred Austin

American Peony Society
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Growing Peonies
Ants: Small Workers With Large Roles

Thanks for visiting my garden! 
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  1. Beautiful. :) ~Anna

  2. My tree peony did not bloom either but most of my peonies did...I have a few that I need to peonies...yours are gorgeous. Great post Sue!

    1. Thanks Donna. Some of mine are getting crowded too, but I guess as long as they are still blooming pretty good I'll hold off on dividing them. Thanks for commenting.

  3. My mother had peonies.After cutting them,she always set them in a bucket of water for a few hours.No ants in the house!

    1. That's a great idea Chris. I'll have to remember that. Thanks for the information.

  4. I remember cutting peonies to put on graves for Memorial Day. And we had to be careful of the ants hitching a ride.

    1. The peonies were used for many occasions and many cemetery plots around here have peonies growing on them.
      I can remember many times almost panicking because there were a few ants crawling on my hands and arms from picking the peonies. As if they were going to bite or something. I've gotten a little better about that. Thanks for commenting Cynthia.

  5. Tree peonies are a bit temperamental. Addicting too, I have a few clients that collect them. They love those big flowers.

    1. I'm finding that out about the tree peonies being temperamental. The first few years mine bloomed it was a light pink, and this year it's almost white. That was so strange. I would like a few more too, but then I'm not sure where I would plant them where they would get enough sun. Thanks for the information, Donna.