Thursday, May 31, 2018

Growing Peonies

I think this is my favorite time of the flower growing season.
They may only have the floor for a short period of time, but peonies are my true love. Their form and shape so tender and beautiful, the way their hues fade like as they mature like a watercolor, and their fragrance. That smell is heavenly!

Three years ago I planted 35 different heirloom variety peonies. After researching flowers that would grow in our windy, arid area that has deep winter temps, I found that peonies prosper in those conditions. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are super hardy. 

  {Phillipe Riviore}

I planted 11 different varieties:

F.D Roosevelt {red}

Hermoine {pink}

Tourangelle  {light pink}

Minuet {pink}

Grace Baston {pink}

Krinkled White {white/pink}

Sarah Bernhardt {pink}

Whopper {pink}

Walter Faxon {pink}

First Out {red}

Phillipe Rivore {red}

I added 5 Francis Willard {white/pink accents} a year later.

{You can store peonies in your home refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks if you harvest at the right stage! Pick at marshmallow stage and remove all of the foliage. Bunch the stems together and place in a plastic bag and lay flat in the refrigerator. Don't worry if they seem a little wilted when you take them out!  Just cut the ends and put them in a bucket of warm water. Allow 24 hours for them to bloom for your event! Wonering what marshmallow stage looks like? In the picture above, the bud in the center that looks soft and pillowy is in the perfect stage. The buds around it are too tight and would not open if stored.}

{Grace Baston}

 {Sarah Barnhardt}


By far one of my favorite and most fragrant bouquet recipe with peonies is to add a little lemon balm to the mix! Oh....I wish I could bottle that scent up. On my table, the whole kitchen is filled with a fragrance that is both sweet and bright.


raspberry foilage
lemon balm

Before planting, I researched and read books and articles on how to properly grow peonies, and came up with a system that has worked really well. Peonies do best if planted in the Fall.

We decided to use weed fabric when planting. It has helped tremendously to keep them fairly weed free. Here they are early this spring in the black weed cover just after I removed all of the straw.

 Peonies don't like to be planted deep, just about 2 inches under some healthy soil with about 1/4 of a 5-10-10 fertilizer. I made sure each tuber had at least 3-5 eyes on it! We covered them up, watered them, and then put a thin layer of straw over the entire bed, making sure not to smother them too deep. The next year, strong, healthy plants started to come up. I removed all of the straw to let them breathe :).

The first year, I pinched all buds, except for one on the plants. This ensures that the plant can focus on root growth. By saving one bud, you can be sure to see if that tuber is what you think it is. After the plant died back, I carefully cut them back to about 2 inches from the ground and removed all leaves. This is really important to prevent any bacterial growth and disease. Again, in the fall, I sprinkled 1/4 cup of fertilizer, watered, and tucked them all into a bed of straw.

This system has worked wonderfully! After 3 years, my plants are healthy and producing at least 12 -20 flowers.

I water them just enough that the soil is moist every three days. We live in a desert area, so it's dry! The best thing about peonies is that they really don't like to have super wet roots and they need full sun. They also do not like to be disturbed, so once you plant your peony, plan on it being there a long time. 50+ years is not uncommon for a peony plant to produce beautiful flowers! 

Peonies are prone to a few diseases and pests: Verticillium wilt, ringspot virus, tip blight, stem rot, Botrytis, leaf blotch, Japanese beetle, and nematodes. I really haven't had any problems so far, and prefer an organic approach in raising blooms. You may notice ants crawling all over your plant. These little guys are the peonies' greatest friend, exchanging nectar for eating bud pests. They are helping the peony to bloom.

By far, my favorite place to order peony tuber is from  Swedish Touch Peonies .

They really have quality tubers and such a wide variety of plants.

Hoping you are enjoying this late fall and start into summer!
Happy planting!



Lynd said...

Gorgeous ❤️

connie said...

Julia, So, so beautiful.. I can see why they are a favorite.. Hope all is good your way.. Connie from Kentucky

Laura Jeanne said...

I was just thinking today that I'd like to add more peonies to my garden...they smell so lovely and make the most elegant bouquets. So this post is very timely for me. Thank you for sharing your peony-growing expertise, as well as the beautiful photographs. I hope to see more posts featuring your garden this year!

Laura in Ontario

Bevy @ Treasured Up and Pondered said...

oh my word. What a wealth of info. I'm missing my peony plants from back on the farm. And, thinking about adding some to our new homes - flower beds. Ahh, so much to do - but these (YOURS) are beautiful!!!!

Gumbo Lily said...

WOW, Julia! You've got a field of peonies there! I'm assuming that you are in full-tilt flower sales. You've been hard at work and it shows. Thanks for sharing all your flower-y wisdom. I have two peonies that I dearly love.


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