The common peony is the very definition of a hardy perennial. This woody flowering shrub will produce huge purple, white, pink or red blooms for decades. Follow these directions to grow peonies successfully from root stock.
Step 1: Choose the Best Location for Your Peony
A spot in your garden with a rich mixed soil, including some clay, that gets 6 or more hours of full sunlight daily, will help your peony flower year after year. Too much shade will lead to peonies which grow tall stems and leaves at the expense of flower buds. Keep it far from tree roots that will compete with it for nutrition. Leave it ample space to grow as it will reach 3 feet in height, and may extend to 3 feet in diameter.
Step 2: Plant Your Peony at the Best Time of Year
Planting in early spring or fall will ensure the most stability for the peony. Those planted in early spring in warmer zones from 5 to 8 will grow stems and deep glossy green leaves within the same season. Fall planting will give the peony root a period of dormancy to strengthen it for the spring growth season. Peonies usually will not bloom the first year they are planted, but are highly dependable for flower production after the second year and onward.
Step 3: Prepare the Soil for Optimum Nutrition
Peonies thrive in rich organic soil, with sufficient drainage for keeping roots moist. Add bone meal or lime to the soil below where you will plant the roots. Use a vegetable or leaf-based compost around the roots when planting. Do not use manure around peony roots, as they can encourage the growth of botrytis fungi. Add peat moss from the container the roots came in.
Step 4: Dig the Holes and Plant the Roots
Dig deep planting holes, between 8 and 10 inches in depth, for peonies to support its woody stems. Fill below the root with garden soil mixed with bone meal or lime if the soil is too acidic. Set the root in so all the eyes, which will produce the stems and flower buds, face upward. Place the eyes no more than 1 inch below the soil surface. Water to saturate the soil after planting.
Step 5: Regular Maintenance for the Peony
Mulch with straw for the winter to suppress heaving in the spring thaw. Rake away the mulch after soil has fully thawed. Water peonies regularly in dry weather, when soil is dry on top. Deadhead faded blooms and discard them. If you pick your peonies for a vase in the house, dunk the blossoms in water and shake vigorously to remove ants, drawn to the nectar and the aphids that live on it. In the fall, rake off leaves and broken stems before frost and put them in the trash. Do not compost, to forestall the spread of botrytis fungus.