Planting peonies

Credit: George Clairmont


Q: A friend has offered me a peony from her garden. How should i plant it? Full sun? What type of ground preparation?

Peonies make wonderful gifts, as they are so long lived. Many are passed down from generation to generation, so you are continuing a tradition by planting one from your neighbor.

This elegant, flowering perennials (although there are also shrubby or “tree” peonies) generally enjoy rich, well-drained soil and full sun. Add some well-composted organic matter to the soil before planting.

Scatter a handful of a good, all-purpose fertilizer over the soil surface and water it in well. I prefer the organic fertilizers available now that have micronutrients and soil-improving microorganisms included.

After planting, water the plant well, encouraging the fertilizer to dissolve and go down into the soil. Then tuck about 2.5 cm (an inch) of mulch around the plant. Water deeply during dry spells.

Once the plant begins blooming, which might not happen for a year if it has been divided from another plant, you’ll probably need to stake the stems to support the large flowers. This can be done with a ready-made peony support, or you can insert five or six bamboo stakes into the ground around the plant and tie twine around and between the stakes, creating a “cat’s cradle” effect for the shoots to grow up through.

Peonies can get a fungal leaf spot. If this happens, clean up the old leaves in the fall, through them away (don’t compost them) and spray around the plant with lime sulfur to kill the fungal spores and prevent re-infection the next year.