One of the oldest domesticated plants know to man with written records dating back to 4000 BC, the peony continues to be splendid as ever. The Peony was named for the Greek physician Paeon, who first used the plants for medicinal purposes. The Peony is a long lived perennial that blesses us each Spring/Summer with a array of blooms ranging from large lush double blooms to exquisitely delicate singles. There are many varieties with different colors of blooms ranging from white to a deep cherry red, Many also emit a fantastic fragrance that will fill the summer air. The personality of the blooms change throughout the day, starting off reserved in the cool hours of the morning to later unfolding with a burst of full bloom and beauty as the the day warms. Peonies make great cut flowers and can last more than a week if cut in full bud. After the flowers fade, the plant itself continues to look good with its glossy green leaves.
The most common type found in landscapes is the herbaceous peony. These peonies die back to the ground each winter only to re emerge each Spring. Peonies require about a three month period of cool temperature dormancy in order to store energy for healthy growth and blooms the following year. Peonies often do poorly in places with year round warmer climates such as southern California and Florida.
How to grow: Best time to plant Peonies is in the fall as their roots actually continue to grow underground during the winter. Where you plant your Peony is very important so choose a location with at least half day of sun. More sun will give you more flowers, and light shade will keep the blooms fresher longer. Place in the ground with the “eyes” or growing points to the top and about 1 1/2 inches below the soil surface (They will not bloom well if planted too deep). Cover with soil and water in. Most Peony plants will grow to a height of 3-4 feet tall and wide so allow for their mature growth.
Peony blooms can get up to 8 inches in diameter and often need support. There are many different ways to stake them, however I like to use the round aluminum ring which sits above the plant to help hold up the weight of the blooms.
Peonies tend to attract ants to the flower buds. This is due to the nectar that forms on the outside of the flower buds, and is not required for the plants’ own pollination or other growth. Don’t worry, the ants won’t hurt a thing. Also, if you have deer in your area, this is a great plant to put in your landscape. The deer will take one bite and move on to something tastier.
Peonies can live for decades getting more beautiful each year. No wonder they are known as “The Queen of Garden Flowers”.