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How to Grow Peony Plants, or Peonies


Thick and lush leaves. Big, bright, showy flowers. These are the two most common descriptions of peonies.Oh, we forgot the word "popular". Big, lush peony plants with big, bright, showy flowers are very popular with home gardeners!

Peonies have their "roots' in two areas of the world. "Common Peonies" originated in southern Europe. Any idea where the "Chinese Peony" originated? Tree peonies come from China, too.  The Chinese peonies have double blooms and are more fragrant than their european cousins. Peonies are perennial plants, and grow quickly. They produce colorful, showy blooms in late spring to early summer.

There is a wide range of colors to choose from, including white, red, crimson, yellow, and rose.

Plant Propagation:

Peonies are grown from roots. The roots develop "eyes" which in turn grow into a new Peony. When transplanting roots from an existing plant, make sure there are at least a couple eyes on the roots.

How to Grow Peony Plants:

Peonies like rich, well drained soil, and full sun. Add plenty of compost and well rotted manure prior to planting, and again each fall.

Plant roots with eyes 1"-2" deep. Space plants a minimum of 24"-36" apart.

The plants will grow fairly quickly to their full height, and bloom in the spring to late fall. Make sure to provide water during periods of drought. Add a general purpose fertilizer a couple of times a year. Use a fertilizer high in Phosphorus about two weeks prior to blooming.

Peonies produce a thick, lush plant. If the plant appears too bushy, trim and thin to improve air circulation. This will help to avoid plant disease that can harbor in the dark, humid areas of this dense plant..

The profusion of leaves and flowers can cause the plants to fall over, spoiling the beauty of the bloom. Make sure to support the plants with garden stakes or hoops.

In the fall, trim the plant back. If  it has experienced plant disease, you can trim  it back to the ground. Remove and dispose of any diseased leaves and stems.

Add a covering of mulch in the fall in areas where there is little or no snow cover.

After a few years, the clumps of roots can get too thick and may require digging them up and removing some of the roots. A sure sign of the need for thinning the roots, is smaller flower blooms. Chances are, your friends will appreciate your delivery of roots from your favorite plants.

Insect and Disease:

Peonies usually have few insect problems. The presence of ants is common. They are attracted to the sweet flower buds. Ants do not hurt the plant.

There are many plant diseases that can affect your plant. These include blights, leaf and stem spots, wilts, molds, and viral disease. Treat plants early with a fungicide. Better still, apply fungicides early in the season  before disease occurs. Repeat applications as indicated on the fungicide label.

Medicinal Uses:

Ancient Chinese used parts, of the peony plant, primarily the roots, for treatment of fever, muscle cramps, liver ailments, atherosclerosis, hepatitis, and even PMS!

While ancient cultures used  peonies in medicine, it is listed as a poisonous plant. See Poisonous Plants-peonies

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