How to Grow the Beautiful Peony

June 06, 2016

Hello there! How was your weekend? Ours was fantastic. Sorry for the silence late last week -- I planned to post on Friday but we drove all night long to get home from a quick trip out of town. I was exhausted and then we had a full day when we got home. 

I'm back at it this week and it's our first full week home on summer break. I'm looking forward to being equal parts lazy and productive -- yay for summer!!

I wrote about this beautiful flower two years ago (actually on the same day, that's weird) but I adore this plant so much I thought I'd update you with a few more tips. On that last post I share about the varieties of the flower and how to get the ants off of them when you bring them in. Today I'm talking more about how to care for the plant and how to get more blooms. Peonies can be kind finicky, but when they're happy you won't ever need to touch them again. 

This year my larger bush didn't produce as many blooms -- only about 12. That's low for that one and I was a little bummed…until I saw the flowers. They were HUGE:
Huge peony blooms

I mean. HUGE. I have never seen them this large. Anywhere!

They are seriously one of the most glorious flowers I've ever seen. So fluffy and delicate...and the scent -- it is truly intoxicating. A true "flower" scent and so lush and full. 

You'll want to cut them when the are full and open. I find if you cut them too soon they do not continue to bloom inside. Peonies need ants to open but even if I cut them in half bloom they don't open up well. The problem with these huge blooms is the plant can't handle the weight. I had to cut a few off mid-bloom because the stalk was broken: 
Tips for growing peonies

Even the smaller blooms will make the stalks droop over so you can imagine how heavy these were! 

If you have to cut them a little early you can open them up yourself a little bit -- just separate the petals and fluff. I don't know what variety these are but I love them -- they are between a light pink and hot pink color: 
How to grow peonies

Our smaller plants produce hot pink blooms that are much smaller and they don't smell quite as much as these. 

The blooms this year were easily ten inches across? Maybe bigger? It's crazy. They are so gorgeous! I only have three in this pitcher and there's no room for more: 
Pink peonies white vase

Here are a few tips on how to grow peonies:
  • Peonies love sun! Full sun is fine for these beauties. In our yard our larger plant in dappled sun does better than those in full though, so who knows. 
  • These plants don't do well in the south, as they need winter cold for the blooms. There are varieties that do better so look into those if you are interested! Also, I've read you can "chill" your plants if it doesn't get cold enough. Worth a try!
  • They are notoriously hard to transplant. A friend was giving away a ton of plants years ago (see my free hosta garden here) and she had this big, beautiful peony bush I dug up and took home. It was so massive and I was giddy. It died within a few days. :(
  • If you attempt to transplant, do it in the fall. I'd say late September would be ideal. Keep in mind if it does stay alive after moving it, it may not bloom for years.

Kitchen with extended island and window seat
  • Don't spray for bugs on the plant or near them -- at least in the spring when they are blooming. They needs ants to open up the blooms. Again, if you want to bring them in (please do and enjoy them!), use this method to get the bugs off. 
  • I have two more plants that barely bloom -- this year the bushes are super small and they only produced one flower between the two. I was waiting a couple years to see if they would pick up but now I know they are planted too deep. Peonies are very picky about their root depth so I need to bring them up a bit and see if that helps. Don't bury the roots more than two inches under ground -- they will not bloom well! 
  • The peony only blooms once a year and the rest of the year the plant is a dark-leaved bush. I really love it even after the blooms are gone. It is full, pretty plant and I love how it looks in our landscaping. 

Inexpensive slipcovered sofa

The great thing about this plant is once you have it in a spot it likes, you don't need to touch it again. You can cut them down in the late fall but I never do -- I just clean it up in the early spring when it starts to bloom again. Otherwise the care is minimal. My kind of plant! :)

Do you grow these beauties? They are the Indiana state flower and grow everywhere here -- they love our weather.
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  1. I love peonies but I just don't get enough sun anywhere in my yard for them to do well. I can't get over the size of your blooms!

  2. Mine should be ready to bloom within the week, I think. It's only the 3rd year with it and each year I get one more flower...this year it looks like I might get 3! I'm going to try your trick to get the ants off!

  3. A trick from my gardening cousin: When the plants come up in the spring, about 10" tall, she puts large tin coffee cans (bottoms cut off) around them. This gives them added support for their heavy blooms. Not many tin coffee cans out there anymore, so I've had success with garden wire...the kind you use to support tomato plants.

  4. So pretty! Peonies are my all-time favorite flowers.


  5. Love them! It's the first year in our new house and we have 2 bushes. I just cut 2 blooms off. They smell so nice!'n

  6. Having driven from Atlanta to Kansas City (and back!) to dig up and transplant my great grandmothers peonies- I can tell you that they transplant well IF done in early October, if you wash them/dip them in a fungicide bath, and if you divide them/cut the decaying parts off- that way the smaller plant has less energy it needs to produce when trying to repair what happened than trying to move a 5-15 year old bush in one piece.

    We ended up with 20 plants from 3 of my great grandmothers festiva maximas- best gift I have ever given my mom!

  7. i had two plants (one very large) that were approximately 10 years old. Decided last fall to transplant and did so in Sept. Even split the large one in two so now there are three. One thing I read was to plant VERY shallowly and water well. Followed that and hoped they would at least live but didn't expect anything more than that this year cause even a nursery transplant doesn't usually bloom the first year. They have blooms! I'm in MA so it should be a couple more weeks before I get those gorgeous flowers. And one other tip - my local nursery sells 'cages' (they sort of look like tomato cages but stronger) to support the heavy weight of the plant. I stake them when they are still relatively small cause they seem to shoot up overnight and I don't want to miss the staking opportunity. Also purchased a fourth plant a month ago. As predicted, no blossoms.

  8. I have peonies that are over 100 years old. Transplanted and split year after year from our families homestead. We have found its best to split early spring... just as they pop through the ground. Our favorite is a fern leaf variety as it blooms at least 6 weeks earlier than the others

  9. Love peonies. My grandmother had them in her garden and when she passed the family got starts from her plants. At the time I didn't have a home so I don't have her plants but many of my cousins have them in their gardens. When I finally got my home this was the first plant I planted. My peonies are the talk of the neighborhood. I where it is very windy. Surprisingly the blossoms stand up the the harsh winds. Love them!

  10. I was just listening to my Iowa Public Radio's horticulture day and they said peonies needing ants to bloom is a misnomer-- here is a link to an earlier Iowa State post about it: Your peonies are beautiful! and now you don't have to feel bad about getting rid of the ants around them. :)

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this tip. I was just about to buy some new peonies, so I'll keep this in mind and hopefully they'll last longer!


  12. Thanks Sarah for the peony info. I guess I won't be growing these gorgeous plants here in Louisiana. I'll enjoy seeing yours this time every year...and yours are IMPECCABLE.

  13. Peonies definitely don't need ants to bloom. The ants are attracted to the buds because of the sweet liquid that is on the buds. I use those hoopy plant stakes, (two hoops and three stakes spaced around the hoops)
    I live in MA as well and mine are in full bloom now. I think I have four plants and there are at least 50 blooms. Deep rose, pale pink and white. So lovely. I have never had any trouble transplanting them and do not do anything special. They may not bloom the next year after transplanting, but frankly I haven't even found that to be true.

  14. Love peonies! I had great luck transplanting in my last house but don't get enough sun at my current house and miss them. It's funny, I'm from Kansas City where they are pronounced pee-a-nees, but 20 years ago I lived in Mass for several years and they were pronounced pee-o-nees. Beautiful no matter!

  15. Quick tip: I use baker's twine (ordered off Amazon) to give my peony bushes extra support right before they bloom. I just go partway up the bush, under the foilage, and wrap the string around the plant once. I tie it off with a bow, and presto! Even after a soaking storm, my peonies stay off the ground.

    1. That's exactly how I do mine. Always holds them up good. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. Lol

  16. Wow, those are gorgeous! I'm wondering if I would be able to make these work in Alabama, since you said they don't do well in the south I'm hesitant to try...even if they are one of my favorite flowers!

    xoxo, SS

    The Southern Stylista

  17. I love peonies but can't have them in the house because our cat will eat them (they are poisonous to cats). Even if we put them up high, he will find a way, hah! I still might plant them outside, though. Your flowers -- and the photos! -- are gorgeous. I never new ther needed the ants to open.


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