Peonies: A True Rival To Roses In Both Beauty And Fragrance
Peonies rival the rose for beauty and fragrance, and they are really easy to grow.
Peonies can be divided into two types: herbaceous or garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), and tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa). Intersectional peony hybrids, or Itoh varieties, are crosses of herbaceous and tree peonies. Garden peonies grow to heights of between 2 and 3 feet, whereas Itoh and tree varieties are taller, reaching 3 1/2 to 4 feet (Check with the nursery on the plant variety that interests you). Peonies are further distinguished by their bloom type, which may result in single, semi-double, double, Japanese or anemone like flowers.
Few herbaceous plants can rival the perennial peony for either floral display or its foliage. Blossoms are large, often fragrant, and they make excellent cut flowers; the foliage provides an excellent background for annuals or other perennials in the garden.
All peonies have five or more large outer petals called guard petals and a center of stamens, or modified stamens. Flowering is usually late spring to early summer. By selecting and planting early, mid, and late-season bloomers, flowering may be extended for six weeks.
Peonies are hardy from zones 2 to 8, with some exceptions. Tree types grow best in Zones 4 to 9 with winter protection.
How To Make Peonies Thrive
Peony should be planted in full to partial sun where they receive at least 6 to 8 hours of light per day. These plants are drought tolerant and can grow in most soil types that are well drained.
Site selection is essential for plants to thrive. Choose a location with full sun and is sheltered from wind. Although peonies prefer loamy earth, they tolerate most soil types; you should ensure the ground drains well. Adding organic matter like compost improves drainage. Peonies require regular watering and can be fertilized with a low-nitrogen boost in spring when leaves first appear and again after the blooms have faded for the season.
Taller peonies often need structural support to help hold their large blooms upright. During the flowering season, regularly remove spent blossoms. This encourages leaf production and increased flower numbers the following year. If you cut flowers for bouquets, do not to remove more than half the peonies from an individual plant. Excessive flower removal can result in decreased bloom production in the future. In autumn, cut back herbaceous varieties, leaving 3 inches of stem above ground; tree peonies should be left untouched.
General Peony Information
Pests And Diseases
Peonies can suffer from several types of fungal infections, including Botrytis blight, verticillium wilt and leaf blotch. Fungal problems are more prevalent during cold, damp weather. Treat infections by removing and destroying any diseased foliage and then cutting stems to the ground after a hard frost. If peonies fail to flower, you should first consider whether they are receiving sufficient sunlight.
Selection can be overwhelming with the number of varieties that are now available; your choices should be based on your local climate and bloom preference. Varieties like the Itoh hybrids “Bartzella” and “Pink Double Dandy” grow best in cooler regions, whereas the herbaceous “Blaze,” “Festiva Maxima” and “Sarah Bernhardt” all can thrive in either warm or cool climates. For maximum flower power, the garden peony “Kansas” has an extended blooming period through summer, or for pure blossom size, consider one of the tree varieties, such as “Glory of Shanghai,” “Robert Fortune” and “Thunderbolt.”
Peony plants do best when planted in the fall to allow the roots to start sending shoots. The majority of root growth in peony plants occurs in the fall season. Tree peonies are planted as a graft. Dig a hole that is 4 to 5 inches deeper than the graft location and place the tree peony in the hole. Cover with dirt, making sure the graft is under ground. Herbaceous and intersectional peonies are grown from tuber plants. Make sure the tuber has 3 to 5 buds present on the plant prior to planting (this is important). Dig a hole that is 1 or 2 inches deeper that the bud location, set the tuber in, and cover making sure the buds are underground. Set peony plants 2 feet or more apart from each other when planting. Water after planting and apply a layer of mulch that is 1 to 2 inches deep.
Propagate herbaceous and intersectional peony plants by separating the tubers of the main plant. Dig up the entire plant in the fall and pull apart the root tuber sections making sure each has at least 3 to 5 buds present. Divide peony plants every 10 to 15 years or if they become closely set together. Tree peony plants can only be propagated through grafting.
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Flickr – Peony Photos