Peonies are amazing herbaceous perennials! After the gorgeous insanely fragrant blooms with their divinely flouncy petals brighten your spring, the lush bushy foliage can create a strong backdrop for your garden and create low hedges all growing season! It's interesting how you even see them growing on abandoned farmsteads without any attention for generations! These old-fashioned standards haven’t gone out of style for good reason!
How do you take care of Peonies and Tree Peonies?
Perhaps summer heat kicked in prematurely or a bad storm came through and tossed your petals everywhere. It’s always sad to see these gorgeous blooms begin to fade, so enjoy them while you can! Snip some flowers and dry them for floral arrangements, or scoop up clean petals to dry for potpourri.
But in between now and next spring, here are some of the simplest and easiest to care for herbaceous perennials around! Peony just needs full sun and well-drained soil. But surely there is something else you have to do to keep these lovely plants looking their best?
Do you cut back Peonies after flowering? Yes! Once the plants are done blooming, despite being a heartbreaking moment to see those pretty petals drop, it's time to snip the branch tips that flowered. This goes for both herbaceous Peony and Tree Peony plants.
Removing the old flower heads really cleans up the plant's appearance and makes them a nice green backbone in the perennial or shrub border for the remainder of the season.
How do you get Peonies to bloom again? Unfortunately, that spring flush of flowers is it for Peonies, and growers have yet to create a reblooming variety (Our fingers remain crossed!). Keep your plants blooming longer by regular deadheading.
Removing the main bloom that has faded, allows the smaller side blooms to receive all the root's energy and bloom faster, keeping the flowers blooming longer! Plus you’ll ensure the plants continue looking good, continue making food, and prevent disease simply by cutting off the old flowers.
If you haven't done so when they’re done blooming, it is not too late!
It is well worth your while to deadhead the old flower heads. This keeps the strength generated by the leaves going into the roots where they store the energy for those glorious blooms next year! You do not want the plants to produce seeds and waste precious energy, so removing the spent blooms does not allow the plants to waste their food making seeds, but storing food instead.
In some areas, Peonies may develop powdery mildew. Though they are usually very disease and pest-resistant, powdery mildew can make your pretty green leaves look dull, gray and well, powdery!
Named because of the whitish-gray powder-like spores that can coat entire leaves, this is a common issue with many plants in the humid summers and regions prone to lots of summer moisture. June to July is usually the time of the year when it is very evident if your Peony plants have powdery mildew, as it looks as if the plant was dusted with powdered sugar.
While it won’t harm the plant much in the long run, mildews do make it difficult for a plant to make food and can cause them to look ragged early in the growing season. There are actually several types of this pesky fungus, but the prevention and treatment are the same.
Keeping these tips in mind usually helps stop powdery mildew from forming, but sometimes they just seem to succumb to its effects anyway.
Peonies are best transplanted and divided in the fall if you are planning on moving any. Wait until fall to do so. It is recommended that Peony get divided every few years to keep them from crowding.
You can divide when your clumps get wider than 18 inches or so, maintaining your clumps about that size keeps them healthy and vigorous, reduces competition, improves air circulation and keeps the roots from becoming crowded. They are best divided in September. (Plus you double your plants!)
Peony roots are very deep growing, but you can safely dig around the root ball and lift them from the ground with a bit of effort. Hose or brush away the soil so you can clearly see where the roots are and choose roots with at least 3-5 'eyes' each to divide and transplant to their new home.
Once replanted, be sure to water them very well and continue to monitor soil moisture throughout the fall and winter months. Reapply a 3-4 inch thick layer of arborist wood chips to help insulate and retain moisture levels. Check out our Garden Blog on winter watering here!
When should you cut back Peonies? Fall inevitably arrives and even the green leafy bunches of foliage succumb to the chill and begin to yellow and brown, so now it's time to trim the entire plant to the ground.
Prune off all leaves and stems down to the soil line and remove all of the (potentially) infected debris from your yard. By removing all of the plant parts, you can prevent overwintering any pathogens, and your plants have a better chance of remaining cleaner next year. Leave a bit of stubble so you know where your plants are for next spring.
Top off with 3-4 inches of arborist mulch chips and give them a good drink of water before winter. Any plant going into the winter with dry roots is almost a death sentence. Likewise with wet soil in winter. Withering or rotting root systems lead to dead or sickly plants in the spring, and you won’t want to miss a single one of those magnificent blooms!
If you have very large shrubs that always seem to flop, in early spring it’s time to install a Peony cage or support system for the stems to grow up and through, helping them stand up to storms and heavy rain. There’s nothing more depressing than to see your blooms flattened against the ground after a downpour!
Tree Peonies are slow to establish and will need much less pruning until they are older.
Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) is a very different kind of plant because it is a woody shrub so they should be pruned very differently and should not be pruned to the ground, instead, it is recommended to simply deadhead right after they bloom.
Pruning out old and dead wood, or reduce a branch or 2 to reshape the plant a bit to keep them looking their best!
Older neglected plants may need to be renewal pruned in late autumn by taking out the oldest thickest stems to the ground, but typically not needed for plants that are maintained yearly.
Why do ants like Peonies so much? Everyone knows ants adore sweet things! What could be sweeter than the nectar and scent of these big flouncy blooms? It is a myth that you need ants to help Peony buds to open, the ants do associate the Peony with sugary treats and use pheromones to call other ants to come harvest and protect the source. Their presence helps deter other pests that may come and nibble at your flowers too!
How do you get rid of ants on Peonies? While they can be a nuisance, they do no harm to your blooms. Displaying a type of mutualism, the ants can simply be shaken off or washed away if you are bringing a few of these glorious blossoms indoors for a floral arrangement. If you are leaving the blooms outside, leave the ants as well!
Just look twice before smelling one or something more than the Peony fragrance may end up tickling your nose!
Nature Hills is here to help you enjoy these remarkable fragrant blooms and their glossy green foliage all growing season! Check out all our available potted and bareroot Peony plants available to you these days in a dizzying array of colors and styles!
You may just want to start your own Peony collection today!