Peony – Paeonia

Long-lived stunner. The peony is one of the most beautiful garden flowers, bold and elegant, large yet perfectly proportioned. There are many cultivated forms available for many different sites and planting schemes.

WINTER

SPRING

ANNUAL CALENDAR

March-April:

Apply fertilizer or mulch with compost or manure. Remove weeds and cut out dead growth on tree peonies.

May:

Early-flowering herbaceous and tree peonies come into bloom.

June:

Mid-season and late herbaceous types are in flower. July: Remove flower-heads as they die. Water the plants well if the weather is hot and dry.

September:

Plant new peonies.

Divide and replant older herbaceous plants if they did not flower well in summer.

October:

Cut the stems of herbaceous peonies down to the ground and pick up fallen leaves.

November-February:

You can plant new peonies anytime during the winter, until March, in well-drained soil.

Most types of peony are extremely frost hardy, but protect tree peonies with straw in cold weather.

Plant herbaceous types with the crown (top of the roots) only 5cm beneath the soil or the peony may never flower. However, tree peonies need planting deeply.

Cultivation

Peonies need little care, apart from mulching in spring and regular watering in summer. When herbaceous plants start to produce fewer flowers, lift them in September and divide the crowns. Make sure that each segment has roots and buds attached, then replant.

BUYING

Breeding work in the USA has given rise to a new peony range. These elegant hybrids are early flowering, often single or semi-double. They may be hard to find but are worth seeking out. ‘Defender’, one of the earliest, has beautiful single rosy flowers, while ‘Prairie

Moon’ has single blooms in soft yellow.

P eonies have been cultivated for centuries, but new hybrids continue to appear. These striking plants are very long lived, although slow to bloom at first.

There are about thirty peony species and dozens of cultivars. True species are single flowered, with one or two rows of petals surrounding a large cluster of stamens, but there are many varieties with semi-double and double flowers.

Growth is lush and the plants are spreading. Most sorts are herbaceous perennials but there are also ‘tree’ peonies which are actually deciduous shrubs.

Herbaceous peonies take a long time to become established but once they have, they last for many years. They are very hardy. Shrubby peonies need a lot of shelter and you should avoid planting them in ‘frost pockets’ as the new spring growth is tender.

Planting

Plant peonies from September to March. Dig the ground well first and add plenty of well-rotted manure. Allow 90-120cm between each plant.

IMPORTANT

Choose a site carefully, as peonies do not like being moved once planted. They tolerate shade for half the day but no more. Tree peonies should not face east.

POPULAR VARIETIES

Variety, Colour, Height (cm), Flowering period

P. cambessedesii, rose-pink, 45, May

P. mlokosewilschii, yellow, 75, May

Apothecary’s peony, (P. officinalis), crimson, 60, May

P. lacliflora, white, 60, June

P. lutea, yellow, 150, May-June

P. peregwia, scarlet, 60, May

P. suffruticosa, white, 220, May-June ‘Festiva Maxima’, white, 90, May ‘Cornelia Shaylor’, rose-pink, 85, late June ‘Felix Crousse’, carmine, 75, early June ‘President Poincare’, ruby red, 90, early June ‘Duchesse de Nemours’, white/yellow, 70, May-June ‘Cheddar Cheese’, white/yellow, 90, early June ‘Kelway’s Supreme’, blush pink, 90, May-June

Peony

SITUATION

Peonies like a sunny situation but will tolerate shade for part of the day. Plant out of direct early morning sun to avoid scorching after an overnight frost.

SOIL

Well-drained and moist. Enrich soil as much as possible by incorporating plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure before planting.

CARE

Peonies need good soil and enough light. Do not move them until they start to produce fewer flowers. At this time, lift, divide and replant.

PLANT HEALTH

Peonies rarely suffer from pests or diseases. However, slugs may eat the young shoots, while grey mould may attack over-fed plants.

The fungal disease peony blight, which can kill herbaceous peonies, may occur in wet weather. Leaves turn soft and brown at the base, then wilt. Stems and leaves rot, buds blacken and grey mould covers the stem just above the soil. Cut diseased plants down to the ground in autumn and burn them. Replace the topsoil.

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