What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Peonies?

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What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Peonies?

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Plant Peonies?

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Peonies are known for their gorgeous blooms and intoxicating fragrance. These flowers are perfect for a cottage garden or to grow as cut flowers to add to indoor floral arrangements so you can enjoy their scent throughout the day. There are two species native to North America: Brown’s peony and California peony, which grow around the west coast. Depending on the cultivar and where you live, these flowers start blooming in late spring or early summer and continue to bloom for about six weeks.

The varieties of peonies you will see for sale in most garden centers are cultivated from European and Asian species. Eurasian peonies are herbaceous plants that grow as perennials in USDA Hardiness zones 3 to 8. These bushes grow to about 3 feet tall and die back to the ground every winter. Although their root sections are often referred to as bulbs, they are actually tubers, so if you are shopping for bare roots to plant, keep in mind that you are looking for a thick, elongated mass of roots rather than a perfectly round bulb. These tubers are similar to bulbs in that they store energy throughout the growing season and use that energy to produce healthy greenery and beautiful blooms next year.

When to plant peonies

pink peonies

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If you are growing peonies from bare root tubers, it is best to plant them in the fall. This allows them time to acclimate to the environment and grow roots before winter sets in. Use your USDA Hardiness zone to find out the first expected frost date in the fall, and count back six weeks. This is the ideal time to place your tubers in the ground. If you are moving or dividing plants, this is also the ideal time to take care of that task. Sometimes we buy bulbs and seeds and then set them aside and forget about them. If you happen to find a package in the early spring, go ahead and plant it — you’ll just have to wait an extra year to enjoy the blooms. You can tell if the roots are still viable if they are firm. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy new tubers if they are soft or mushy.

For those wanting a head start on spring blooms, you can purchase live peonies, which you can also sow about six weeks before your first expected frost in the fall. While they can be planted late in the season, you will likely see them arrive in garden centers in the spring, along with all the spring and summer bloomers. Since these are already a few years old, you can plant them in the spring and still get plenty of blooms the first year.

How to plant peonies

person planting peony tuber

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Because peonies do not respond well to transplanting, consider your location carefully. Peonies need full sun for optimal blooms, so ensure the location gets at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. Once you have decided on the best location, dig a large hole up to 24 inches deep and wide. Consider replacing about one-fourth of your soil with compost to help provide the food your peonies need to thrive. Loosen and blend your soil and amendments so roots can grow more quickly, which will help them grow strong and healthy after emerging in the spring.

Add some of your loosened soil mix back into the hole, and place the tuber about two inches below the soil’s surface. Fill the hole back up to the top and tamp lightly with your foot. Finally, water well after you plant, and wait excitedly for your beautiful peonies to pop up when spring returns.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.