Although the sight of peonies' sumptuous blooms prompts many people to buy their plants in the spring, peonies, just like daffodil and tulip bulbs, are one of the Seeds You Should Be Planting In Autumn. For fall planting, your best bet is to put in bareroot peonies rather than green, growing plants. A bareroot peony consists of several swollen roots and a crown of pink growth points called buds or eyes. When you're shopping, make sure each division you buy has at least three buds and roots that are solidly attached to the crown. Plant as soon as possible, but if you must wait a few days, gently wrap each bareroot plant in moist newspaper, place it into a ventilated plastic bag, and keep the bag out of the sun.
(Transform the ordinary into the extraordinary with Rodale's The Perennial Matchmaker, your foolproof one-plant-at-a-time approach to picking perfect plant partners and growing your most stunning garden ever!)
Your growing site should receive full sun in the morning and afternoon shade. The site should also have well draining soil and contain plenty of organic matter. If you need to add organic matter, mix compost into the soil before backfilling the hole. If the soil is excessively acidic, add 1 cup of lime per plant.
Plant each bareroot peony so the buds, or growing points, face skyward and are about 1.5 inches below the soil surface. A common problem is planting too deeply. Water well after planting and keep the soil reasonably moist until the first frost. Then pile 4 inches of mulch atop the planting hole to keep the new roots from heaving out of the ground during winter freezes and thaws, then pull the mulch away in the spring. After the first year of growing, the established plant won't need winter mulching. Peony plants grow and bloom much better in the spring if the soil nutrients are replenished every year. Fertilize established peonies by spreading a 2 inch layer of compost around the plants in late fall.
The only other garden care that peonies need is an end-of-the-year cleanup. This consists of cutting peony plants back to the ground in late fall and destroying all the plant debris by burning it or putting it into the trash. Peony foliage should not be added to the compost pile because botrytis blight, also called gray mold which is a fungal disease that affects peony plants, sometimes survives the composting process. Some gardeners are bothered by ants that are attracted to the nectar in peonies. When you cut peonies for a fresh floral arrangement or bouquets, simply wash the ants off with water, and follow these easy steps on How To Make A Stunning Bouquet In 5 Minutes.
Related: 9 Flowers That Add Color To Your Garden
Peony Varieties That Bloom From Early To Midseason
Stardust: single flowers with shining white petals cupped around golden stamens bloom on strong tall stems early in the season.
Big Ben: bomb double, medium-size, dark red flowers grow on stiff stems and are fragrant; foliage stays handsome through summer. This early bloomer grows well in a pot and is a good choice for southern gardens.
Kansas: this American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner produces bright raspberry red to rose pink double flowers that do not fade while blooming. Lots of blooms on tall stems make it a good cut flower. This red variety blooms early, and it is one of the few double reds that grow well in southern gardens.
Red Charm: the bomb double, waxy, deep crimson flowers of this early to midseason bloomer are long lasting and the sturdy herbaceous foliage looks good all summer, especially around small trees.
Miss America: an excellent cut flower species, this semidouble, fragrant flower has white petals and yellow stamens. A two-time American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner, this midseason white bloomer does well in full sun and is a good choice for southern gardens.
Related: Don't Forget To Do This If You're Raising Dahlias
Peony Varieties That Bloom From Mid To Late-season
Angel Cheeks: Bomb-shaped, mildly fragrant flowers with soft pink petals bloom in midseason, the plant has sturdy stems and deep green leaves.
Le Charme: A vigorous grower with tall stiffly erect stems, this midseason bloomer bears Japanese-form flowers with rose-colored petals and butter yellow stamens streaked with pink.
Louise Marx: Fragrant, Japanese-form white blooms with gold stamens are borne in midseason and make fine cut flowers and the herbaceous foliage is reliable all summer.
Miss Mary: Single flowers with silky red petals and contrasting short gold stamens are borne in midseason.
Festiva Maxima: Lots of large, fragrant, white double flowers with crimson flecks bloom in midseason.
Pink Princess: This vigorous grower and midseason bloomer has stout, erect, dark green foliage and single flowers with gold stamens surrounded by petals in shades of pink.
Nippon Gold: Pink petals surround yellow stamens in a single flower form. The herbaceous foliage of this late bloomer stays nice all summer.