Monday, April 4, 2011


Native to China, peonies are well known and well loved perennials. Easy to grow, with glorious single or double blooms, ranging from white through yellow, pink, coral, reds and lavenders, they can remain in the garden for many decades.
Herbaceous peonies, hardy to zone 2, die down in winter; the leaves should be cut, not pulled, off
around Halloween and put into the garbage to avoid disease problems. Tree peonies are woody-branched with beautiful leaves. Hardy to zone 4, no pruning is needed except to remove dead or frost damaged parts. Intersectional or Itoh peonies combine the features of both tree and herbaceous peonies. Many unusual colours have been produced in the Itoh group.
Plant peonies in the middle of a sunny border where their handsome leaves will form a backdrop for later flowering plants. Soil should be enriched with organic material, compost or manure and two tablespoons of bulb fertilizer, mixing well into an 8" to 9" deep hole which is then back filled, the peony roots should be covered by only 2" of soil. Failure to produce flowers is usually caused by planting too deep! Peonies should be fertilized with a low nitrogen fertilizer when the reddish shoots emerge in spring. This is the time to place supports or peony rings, to protect the brittle new shoots and to avoid the heartache when a spring storm flattens the blooms. Repeat fertilizing after blooming.
To produce larger flowers, disbudding may be done when the side buds are the size of peas, this process adds strength to young plants and reduces the weight on the stem. Deadheads should be removed to encourage plant growth.
Peonies are generally disease free but can be affected by botrytis, a fungal disease which blackens the leaves. Cut off and dispose of affected leaves. Sulphur can be used in severe cases.
With good soil preparation and a little patience these hardy plants will reward you with fabulous flowers for years to come.
Article: J.E. Wingate
Richmond Hill Garden and Horticultural Society

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