There are two distinct forms of plants in the genus, Paeonia. The most common type are the herbaceous peonies whose stems and foliage die back to the ground after heavy frost in the fall. A less common type are the tree peonies which are woody shrubs that keep their stems through the winter.

Both types of peony are known for their large, brightly colored flowers which, in some cultivars, can be huge, almost to extreme. Until recent decades, double flowering types were most common but the single flowering peonies are becoming more popular because they can hold themselves up without staking. The double flower types need support and often shatter in heavy rain and winds.

This page covers only herbaceous peonies while tree peonies are discussed on their own page.

Peonies are pretty adaptable in terms of their site conditions. Ideally, they should be planted in a well drained soil and in full sunlight. Like most ornamental plants, they prefer a slightly acid soil in the pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

Autumn is usually thought to be the best time to plant peonies, however, they may also be planted in the spring with good success.

The key factor is that the top of the buds on the crown of the division must be no deeper than 2 inches from the top of the soil. A good approach is to dig the hole and then put a board across the opening. Fill in soil until you can place the division on top of the mound and the buds are 2 inches from the bottom of the board. Then, refill the hole with the original soil. If the peonies are planted too deep, they will produce stems and leaves but no flowers.

Once the flowers begin to fall apart, deadhead the peonies. BTW - Ants are NOT needed for peonies to bloom. They are often seen on the buds but this is because they are attracted to the sweet sap the oozes from the bud. Peonies will flower with or without the presence of ants.

If you have the large, double flowering types, you may need to stake the flower stalks to keep them from bending down to the ground. A peony ring or bamboo stakes may be useful.

The single flowering peonies may not be as fragrant as the doubles but they do not need staking.

In the fall, cut the dead, blackened foliage down to the ground and dispose of it away from the peony bed. This is especially important if the plant shows signs of peony blight discussed below.

Botrytis blight is, perhaps, the most common disease of peonies. This fungal disease caused large black spots on the leaves later in the season. Some fungicides are labeled for this disease but such things as removing the diseased leaves and stems in the fall and avoiding irrigation directly to the leaves should help to keep it under control. Also, plants grown in the shade where it takes longer for water on the leaves to evaporate are most likely to infected than those in the full sun.

There is no need for over winter protection of peonies unless you are in zones to which they are not adapted. Peonies are long lived plants and have been know to stay in the same location for 70 or 80 years with a little rejuvenation division periodically to keep them blooming.

Division is the most common way to propagate the many cultivars of peony. Be sure to have 1 to 3 buds on each part of the crown when making the division. Usually the best time to do this is in the fall after the foliage has died back so you can easily see the developing buds.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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