Grow Bare-root Peonies
Peonies are magnificent additions to the garden. Their large, dense flowers are splendid in arrangements and adorn the landscape. Scented peonies also spread a fantastic fragrance. An extra advantage is that neither deer nor hares like peonies.
Peonies grow wild in Europe, Asia, and North America. They have also been cultivated and refined in parks and gardens for a very long time. In Greek, “paion” means physician, and mythology tells us that a skilled healer once transformed into a peony. Other Greek myths claim that peonies are actually disguised nymphs.
Plant Bare-root Peonies in the Fall
The best time for planting bare-root peonies is early fall, in September-October. During the fall, peonies enter a dormant phase. This minimizes the risk of root damage during handling. Planting peonies in the fall also allows the buds ample time to establish themselves in the ground before spring growth.
Bare-root peonies are delivered without soil. The roots are dormant and will come to life above ground the following spring. If immediate planting in the ground isn’t possible, the root bundle can be stored briefly in the refrigerator. Temporary planting in an outdoor pot before final planting also works well.
Space for Peonies
Peonies prefer well-drained soil and do not like their roots to be wet. The most abundant blooms come from peonies placed in the sun, but partial shade can also work. An overly sunny and warm location can slightly shorten the flowering period.
If there’s room for multiple peonies in the garden, consider varieties that bloom at different times for an extended blooming season.
Keep in mind that peonies grow larger over the years. Give the plant up to a meter of space to spread out. The space between the plants can be filled with delightful summer flowers as the peonies grow.
Avoid moving peonies, as it may take a while for them to start flowering again after being relocated.
Once the location is selected, it’s time to prepare the soil. Remove weeds and dig a hole about 30-50 cm deep. First, add a layer of compost or fertilizer, and then fill it with garden soil. The roots should not come in direct contact with the fertilizer.
Place the root bundle with the bud-like knobs facing upwards. These “eyes” are the peony’s growth buds. It’s important that the roots are placed 3-5 cm deep. Planting too shallowly risks the peony freezing during winter, while planting too deeply risks the peony not flowering.
Cover the roots with soil, lightly tamp down the soil, and water. The bare-root peony now has excellent conditions for growth and blooming.
Care of Peonies
During the first winter, it’s good to protect the peony during the cold months using, for example, spruce branches or mulch. In spring, this cover instead serves as protection against the early light. Too much light early in the season may produce shoots that can be damaged by a sudden frost.
Once the peony has grown, it may require staking or tying to prevent the branches from being weighed down by flowers.
Feed the peonies once in the spring and once after flowering. Since peonies don’t like nitrogen-rich fertilizers, it’s good to avoid chicken manure or urea.
Enjoy the peony’s incredible flowers in beautiful summer bouquets. And snip off wilted flowers as you go. This gives the peony energy to produce even more magnificent blooms.
Author: Johanna Damm
Fact-checked by Erik Hoekstra
Last updated: 2023-09-20