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Peony Basics


Peonies, in all their colors, are among the gardener's favorite beauties

The peony is a perennial favorite that will add beauty to the garden for years to come. Peony plants do not need a lot of attention, which makes it a good choice for beginning gardeners. They make good companion plants for other colorful annuals and perennials as well.

A healthy plant will produce late-spring flowers that last about two months. You can choose from garden or tree peonies. The garden varieties are identified based on shape of flowers: single, semidouble, double, anemone, and Japanese. Tree peonies are shrub-like and the stems remain intact instead of dying back.

Most peonies are suitable in zones 3-8. They need a hard cold to produce flowers the following season. Plant in full sun with well-draining soil. Fall is the best time to plant. Avoid buying seeds as these will take years to develop. Divisions with 4 eyes and with no signs of rotting are best.

To plant, work the soil to two feet deep as the plant will develop a far-reaching root system. Fill the hole and place the tuber so that the eyes, or buds, are about two inches from the surface. Water deeply to nurture the roots. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer with constraint. In the fall, peonies can be cut to the ground to prevent disease. They do not transplant well, so when planning a garden, take this into consideration. Division is usually not recommended for at least the ten years, or longer, when plants may become crowded.

Young peonies are best enjoyed in the garden. Cuttings in the first few years may inhibit further flowering. Even an older plant should not have many flowers removed.

Keep the area around peonies clear, except for mulch. Leaf debris can encourage fungus. Ant infestations are usually temporary and will not harm the plant.

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