How to get a peony plant to bloom, and enjoy the flowers for months!
THE GARDEN SERIES WITH EXPERT GARDNER JORDYN PECHA OF • floral mountains •
Yes. We all love them. I mean, how could you not? Peonies can practically stop you in your tracks and make you admire them in the middle of your busy life. Or maybe that’s just me… For some reason, though, they seem to be hard to grow. They are definitely not a flower that you can plant and immediately reap the benefits. These guys take some time and patience and hopefully this post will give you a little insight into these gorgeous blooms.
To be honest, before this season, they were a complete mystery to me. I bought one, I think 5 years ago, and it just bloomed for me this year! Yes! 5 years to get a bloom! Granted, it lived in its original pot for a year, then finally got planted in a not so sunny spot. But getting 3 blooms from it this season restored my hope for growing these flowers myself.
Peonies come in a wide range of colors from white to pink, yellow, red and just about everything in between. There are hundreds of different cultivars to choose from, some are herbaceous and some grow as tree peonies. I personally have no experience with tree peonies, so this post is mostly all about herbaceous ones. Each year, their life cycle starts from the ground. Meaning that come fall, the entire plant dies back. Herbaceous peony blooms can be single, double or multipetaled and their bloom cycle is one to watch. Some of these cultivars begin as a vibrant coral color and by the time they drop their petals they are a creamy white. It is the most amazing thing to watch.
These plants may take some time and a little effort in the beginning, but when you get them established, they will give you plenty of blooms for years and years. It is best to plant them in the fall as bare-root plants. These bare-roots can be easily found at any garden center. They get set out the same time as the bulbs do in the fall.
According to Sunset’s Western Garden Book, you should dig a hole a couple days before planting and work in plenty of compost and a high-phosphorus fertilizer into the soil. Let that settle for a couple of days and plant your peony about 1-2 inches deep in a nice, sunny spot. Planting too deeply can prevent flowering. No thank you!
The next spring, don’t worry if they don’t bloom, they likely won't. But if you planted them in a spot they like, the spring after that, you should be good to go and have fresh peonies in no time.
If you are like me, and plant them in a shady spot, it could take a couple years to get a bloom. It’s worth it though! I promise! It should also be noticed that they bloom much better when they experience an extended period of winter chill. Just one of their quirks.
Cutting and Storage
As the flowers begin to bloom, cut them when they are still in a round bud and showing a little bit of color. They will open up, don’t worry. Because their growing season is so short, they make it up with their storage abilities. After you cut these, keep them dry and wrap them in paper or plastic. You can even lay them on their sides in a cooler set around 35* and they will keep for a month (or longer)! Just bring them out when you want them and they will open right up for you; remember to keep them dry in the cooler.
I hope this gives you a little hope that if you have a peony that isn’t blooming, it’s likely just getting used to its area. If you are planting them for the first time just keep in mind that you most likely will not get a bloom the first season or two. Patience is key to these flowers.