Tag Archive | peonies

Plant Peonies in Fall for Spring Beauty

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

DSC_0235Peonies are harbingers of spring. Their vast array of colors, shapes, and sizes are among the many reasons they are treasured by gardeners. Add the incredible fragrance of many varieties and you’ve won me over.

Fall is the ideal time to plant or transplant peonies. According to Nate Bremer, owner and grower at Solaris Farms in Reedsville, WI, peonies make almost all of their root growth in the fall of year, even after frosts and leaves have fallen off the trees.

“The plants themselves may look dead above the ground,” said Nate, “but the roots are busy growing and expanding their territory.” He says that planting in the fall allows the new plantings to grow roots for the coming year. If peonies are planted in the spring, they must depend upon roots that were grown the previous year to support them through the summer season, which often causes them to use up their stores of energy and ultimately weakens them.

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Peony ‘Roselette’

Nate should know. His business specializes in peonies. I personally visited his garden center of field-raised stock in spring of last year and was wowed by an early blooming variety called ‘Roselette.’ Its crisp, coral-pink, bowl-shaped blooms were 7” across and caught my eye from 75 yards away. I had to have one. Imagine my disappointment when Nate told me I couldn’t pick it up for another six months! For an instant gratification gardener, it was almost more than I could bare. But I patiently waited until October when I could finally claim my purchase. And I was rewarded this spring with some of the most amazing blooms I’d ever seen, pictured here.

“Peonies may look like they are doing very little during the hot days of summer, but they are busy storing food for the next year,” said Nate. “In autumn many of them produce leaves of gold, orange and red, adding to their value as a three season plant.”

Be sure to cut down herbaceous peonies and remove the stems and foliage in fall. Peonies are susceptible to a fungal disease called botrytis. You may have seen this on your plants. It shows up as black areas on stems and leaves during damp or wet weather. Removing the plant material helps minimize this disease the following growing season.

Nate also shared how nurseries that sell containerized peonies usually plant them in their pots during the fall season or during late winter weather and the peonies do their rooting then. When the containerized peonies are purchased and planted during the spring season the plants have completed their rooting for the year and are susceptible to many problems like drought, soggy soils, disease and heat.

If you’ve considered transplanting peonies, fall is the ideal time for that as well. Rather than transplanting a large clump, Nate recommends dividing larger clumps into 3-5 eyes. Larger clumps generally do not transplant as well. In either event, do it now and don’t be temped to wait until spring. Chances are you will be disappointed.

Thanks to Nate Bremer for sharing his expertise. For information on his unique garden center, which also specializes in Lilium and Day Lilies, visit his website at www.solarisfarms.com. Many more growing tips on peonies can be found there as well.

 

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Old-fashioned but never out of style: Peonies

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Whenever I see peonies in bloom, I think of my Grandpa. In his garden, he had the most beautiful deep red peonies and, in my garden, I now have two huge, healthy plants that are glorious each year. I’ve also added pink and yellow peonies to my garden and I’m so thrilled that this lovely bloomer continues to be popular.

Common name: Peony

Botanical name: Paeonia; there are more than 30 species, including P. officinalis, P. lactiflora, and P. mollis, and many hubrids and cultivars

Height: up to about 3 feet tall, 3 feet wide

Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Bloom time: Mid- to late spring, into early summer

Conditions: Plant peonies in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The pointed eyes (where shoots emerge) should only be about 2 inches below soil level, with the eyes facing up.

Best features: Peonies are among the easiest perennial plants to grow. They are long-lived, are not much bothered by pests, and tolerate drought. Established peonies can be relied upon to produce dozens of flowers every spring. There are thousands of hybrids and many different flower types, but semidouble and double peonies are the classic blooms. The flowers can be pale or bright pink, magenta, deep red, pure white, rich coral, soft yellow, or bicolored. A good selection of early-, mid-, and late-blooming varieties will provide flowers for six weeks. Flowers can be cut on stems up to 24 inches long. Peony foliage is pretty, too, and the plants are a substantial presence in any garden.

Peonies coming up in the spring

Peonies are easy to share: Propagate plants by division. Dig them up in fall, and divide the crown carefully with a sharp knife; each division should have at least one eye, preferably more. You should be able to separate an established plant into at least three divisions. A divided plant will be more vigorous than one that you simply dig and move without dividing.

Be sure to fertilize with aged compost or manure. Peonies are particularly sensitive to fresh

manure — it will severely damage the plant. Peonies like slightly alkaline soil conditions.

I can’t recommend strongly enough these old-fashioned plants for your garden. The blooms are lovely, with a marvelous aroma, and the foliage is beautiful. The plants require almost no care — and don’t knock those ants off the blooms! As explained in a previous post, those little warriors are helping the plant!

Transplanting Peonies

Autumn is the best time to plant peonies, whether they are newly purchased or simply being moved. You can start whenever the weather cools but should stop at least six weeks before the expected date of frozen ground. (Newly planted peonies won’t mind early fall’s icy mornings because the soil below the surface is still warm, but they must have plenty of time to make new roots before growth sops for the winter.)

Start by choosing a location where they can grow undisturbed for the foreseeable future. Peonies are long-haul plants, not at their best until they have been in place for some years.

Test the soil in the planting spot to be sure it has a pH of at least 6, although 6.5 to 7 is better; amend it with dolomitic limestone if necessary. If you’re moving the plant, cut off the discard the spent foliage. Dig up and handle the roots carefully as they are quite brittle.

Peony_zpsce6b6354Dig planting holes roughly twice as deep and wide as the peony roots. Prepare the soil by working in a few shovelsful of compost. Set the roots in the prepared holes, making sure the budlike eyes are no more than 2 inches below the ground. Backfill gently; don’t tamp down around the plants. Water them in, then top off with additional soil if necessary.

After the ground is frozen 3 or 4 inches down, add a protective blanket of straw, shredded leaves, or bark mulch. Do not fertilize until spring, when a generous application of compost will be welcome.

Note: there is an old wive’s tale that says you shouldn’t cut more than a third of your peony blooms or you’ll have fewer flowers the next year. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Plants get nourishment through roots and leaves and use it to make flowers and fruit. The flowers are takers, not givers, as far as the plants resources are concerned, and you could cut every one without hurting the plant at all. In fact, when flowers are removed, perennials can use the strength that would have gone into making seeds to do things like fight disease, put out replacement foliage, and build up their underground resources. 

The one-third business probably got started because peonies have short stems. When you cut them for the vase, you usually take a lot of the foliage, too, and a plant does need its leaves to stay healthy. So, leave the leaves, take the flowers, and don’t forget the “get rid of it” rule: even healthy-looking peonies usually harbor fungus spores that should not stay nearby or be composted. Send all peony flowers to the landfill, bury them a foot deep, or burn them.

peony-bud-111910_960_720And one more thing: don’t attempt to eliminate the ants that crawl all over your peonies!! Peonies have tiny nectaries, specialized tissues that secrete nectar, at the edge of their bud scales (delicate leaf-like structures covering the bud). The nectar is a highly nutritious blend of sugars, proteins, and amino acids and it attracts the ants to the flower buds. In exchange for the nectar, the ants provide protection for the buds. Any bud-eating pest is attacked by the ant who make formidable foes since some of them can bite from one end and sting or spray from the other end. Don’t spray the ants with poisons or water — the peonies know what they need better than you do!