Peony Perfection

Hands down, my favorite flower is the peony. Go figure, right? It’s the name-sake for my blog, so it’s finally time I made a post about these beautiful blossoms. Today I want to talk about how you can grow and care for them, pests and diseases they contact, and peonies in pop culture.

Fast facts:

  • Botanical Name: Paeonia
  • Herbaceous or woody
  • Sun exposure: Full to part
  • Soil type: Loamy
  • Soil pH: Neutral
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Flower color: Wide variety; all but blue
  • Bloom time: Spring; Mid-May until early June

Tips on Planting:

Peonies are not very picky when it comes to location, but choose it wisely because they do not like disturbance. They are a very delicate plant so it is important that it will/would have protection from damaging winds. They need to be planted away from other trees or shrubs, because peonies don’t like to compete for food and moisture.  There should be three to four feet  between plants for good air circulation. It is best to plant peonies in the fall; late September and October in most of the country, and even later in the South. (If you want to move an established plant, this is the time.)

  1. Dig a generous-sized hole, about two feet deep and two feet across in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. If the soil is heavy or very sandy, enrich it with compost. Incorporate about one cup of bonemeal into the soil. Tamp it firmly.
  2. Set the root so the eyes face upward on top of the firmed soil, placing the root just 2 inches below the soil surface. (In southern states, choose early-blooming varieties, plant them about an inch deep, and provide some shade.)
  3. Fill the hole back in with the soil that was removed, taking care that the soil doesn’t settle and bury the root deeper than 2 inches.
  4. Water thoroughly.

Tips on Care:

Peonies usually need a growing seasons to establish themselves, bloom, and grow. They do thrive on neglect, and, unlike many other perennials, do not need to be divided.

  • Excess fertilizer is not always key – try and work the fertilizer in the soil before planting.
  • It is also important to remember to not over fertilize; every few years should do the trick, especially if you have poor soil.
  • If peonies have any structural weakness, usually in the stems because of the heavy blooms, consider three-legged metal peony rings that allow the plant to grow through the center of the rings.
  • Deadhead peony blossoms as soon as they begin to fade. Cut to a strong leaf so that the stem doesn’t stick out of the foliage. You can also cut the foliage to the ground in the fall to avoid any overwintering disease.
  • Don’t smother peonies with mulch. If cold temperatures are severe, during the first winter after planting you can mulch VERY loosely with pine needles or shredded bark; remove mulch in the spring.

Potential Diseases or Pests:

Peonies are prone to nematodes, the Japanese Beetle, tip blight, Verticillium wilt, stem rot, Botrytis blight, leaf blotch, and ring spot virus. Ants are also very attracted to peony plants because of the nectar it produces. The ants fend off some of the bug-eating pests on the plant, so try to not spray them. They are helping your peony flourish! Peonies are a deer resistant plant, though. So that is one less pest you have to worry about in your garden.

. . .

I think if I were to ever be a flower, it would definitely be the peony. They really are remarkable flowers; high end, high quality, high demand. It’s not very often that you don’t hear this bloom mentioned at least once in a bride’s discussion about her flowers. Girls want this flower because it’s elegant, it’s classy, it makes a statement. They aren’t concerned that they cost $20+ a stem, they want 15 in their bouquet alone.

I think social media outlets like Pinterest and visual media like vogue or Gossip Girl have really brought this classic flower to light. While it has never really dipped in popularity, the peony did take off when that was the only flower that Blair Waldorf would accept circa 2008. She set a standard with her Upper East Side lifestyle; we all had to be like Blair and if that meant buying nothing but peonies, so be it.

What flower would YOU be?



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