It's hard to believe that a plant as lovely as a peony requires so little maintenance.
If planted properly, provided a minimal amount of annual maintenance and given the right conditions your peony plant will provide you unparalleled beauty for 50 years or even more.
To ensure your peony plantings are successful, we've summarized the most aspects of peony care for you below.
We have learned - sometimes the HARD way - that site selection is the single most important factor in determining the success of your peony.
You heard that right.
Not poor soil - you can fix that!
Not compaction - with a little help, peonies can handle that too!
But too little sun and/or poorly drained soil? That will NOT work.
So here are these 2 main factors (plus a few "bonus" factors) you should take into consideration when planting your Lyndaker Farms' Peonies.
Herbaceous and Itoh
Our rule of thumb is no less than 8 hrs a day. 8 hrs+? Even better! We are talkin' full, FULL sun, people.
I have read that some folks plant in areas getting only 6 hours/day. But, in our gardens, the 2 plants that get less than 8 hours just don't keep up with the others. Our observation is that < 8 hours sun causes the plants to become quite leggy and flower production to reduce substantially.
To us, that seems like a waste of a perfectly good peony!! So please, plant the peonies where the sun shines!
One of the beautiful things about tree peonies is that they can thrive in partial sun conditions. In our experience, this gives you so many great options for planting location.
Ideally, tree peonies like either:
1) full morning sun and afternoon shade or
2) dappled shade throughout the entire day
Now to be clear, tree peonies can and do handle full sun too. Notably, on our farm, varieties like "High Noon" and "Kinkaku" do very well in extremely sunny conditions.
In fact, for many tree peonies, full sun will produce a thriving plant but one with blooms that fade and wilt more quickly than they would in the shade.
However, if you buy a tree peony with Rockii heritage, we strongly recommend you always plant in partial or dappled shade! For us, Rockii derived peonies tend to go summer dormant when planted in full sun.
The first time this happened we thought it was disease. But as we trimmed the tree peony back, we found an otherwise thriving plant. Then, the next year, the affected plants came back even fuller and prettier.
After some reading we learned that others also experience this and are also linking it to tree peonies with Rockii heritage
So, if you want your Rockii type tree peony to remain green and bushy throughout the entire growing season, give it some shade!
Poorly Drained Soil
Herbaceous, Itoh and Tree Peonies all detest overly wet soil. If your planting spot has drainage issues your peony
- will not thrive,
- will be more disease-prone
- could even die!
When starting our farm, we learned this the hard way. We thought we had carefully avoided all wet areas. However, after planting we learned that 2 planting areas did hold water - but just for a few weeks in early spring when we hadn't noticed it.
This sounds like a small thing but it was enough to put 1 whole bed at risk and substantially slow growth in 3 others.
Now - before we plant - we monitor the target area for an entire year to make sure it drains well even in the wettest parts of the year.
That level of diligence may sound like overkill but to get the very best out of your Lyndaker Farms' Peonies, we strongly recommend you do the same!
Some Bonus Factors
In general, peonies will perform better and be more disease-free if they are planted in locations with good airflow.
Fungii like powdery mildew and botrytis love stagnant air. So air movement can help prevent them from getting a toe-hold.
However, be aware that every rule has its exceptions.
When we lived in Brooklyn, I had 2 peonies planted near the sidewalk, in an area with great airflow. Due to limited yard space, the rest of my peonies were all planted in locations with next to no air movement.
I only had powdery mildew issues with those 2 peonies in the breezier locations. Why? because just upwind of these 2 peonies, there was a diseased tree COVERED in powdery mildew.
So the takeaway: airflow is great if/when you can get it. But if you can't find a location with good airflow then just make sure you keep the peony as weed free as possible. And, if it's a tree peony, pay extra attention to pruning as needed.
Peonies will suffer if they are in the path of an overhead sprinkler/lawn watering system. If you irrigate your lawn, make sure you do not plant your peonies where they will get irrigated by your system.
Strong Winter Wind (tree peonies only)
We grow in a very Northern climate. On our property we have micro-climates that probably go as cold as Zone 4a. We also have areas that are exposed to very heavy winter winds.
While tree peonies can definitely handle the cold and even the wind, continuous exposure to winter winds may reduce the number of flowers your tree peony produces.
On our farm, we planted about 10 tree peonies behind a wind break that had not yet fully developed. And when the winters are unusually cold, those plants do not flower.
As such, we strongly recommend you not plant tree peonies in places that take the brunt of your winter winds.
Peonies do not require perfect soil. When we started our farm, the topsoil on about 80% of the cleared land had been scraped and the topsoil had been sold. Our first year we planted hundreds of peonies into poor quality sub-soil and fill dirt.
Yet we lost almost no plants!
What we learned is that even poor soils will work for peonies - if you add organic matter before you plant.
Our first 2 years, we trucked in compost. But that got very expensive. Now we've switch to aged wood chips or wood chips composted with duck and/or chicken manure.
We also inter-plant plants like comfrey and some types of wildflowers that help enrich the soil.
All of these options have worked well.
So if you're working with poor soil, here are some of the things you can do to improve it:
Apply good quality compost to the intended planting area
For most home gardeners this is probably the most straight forward.
In fact, it's what we used with great success in our home garden before we opened Lyndaker Farms.
After adding compost for several years, the soil was so healthy that our plants appeared to virtually take care of themselves.
When using compost, we strongly encourage you to apply it at least 4-6 weeks before you plant following the below process
- Remove weeds from the target planting area
- Put 4-6 inches of compost on top of the soil.
- 4-6 weeks later dig your hole
- plant your Lyndaker Farms' peony
Apply aged woodchips to the intended planting area
Woodchips that have rotted for 3+ years greatly improve soil quality (and will help suppress the weeds)!
To apply, follow the same steps you would follow to apply compost.
Amend based on soil type (only if needed)
We are lucky in that our land is neither sandy nor clay. As such we have not had to amend our soil to correct for these issues.
However, if you have clay soil, you will want to improve drainage by amending with compost, rock dust and even sand.
If you have sandy soil, you will want to add clay and organic matter (such as compost or even peat moss) in order to help your soil hold moisture.
Planting Your Lyndaker Farms' Peony
To ensure a successful peony planting we recommend you follow the below steps
Plant your bare-root divisions in the fall.
We only divide and ship peony divisions in the Fall. Dividing and planting at other times will unnecessarily stress the plant and your plant may never fully recover or may even die.
In our northern climate, we try to have our bare-root peonies in the ground no later than the end of October.
Once you receive the plant in the fall, we recommend that you plant it as soon as possible. if you can't put it in the ground immediately put the root somewhere cool and dark. A basement or even your refrigerator will work well.
Make a large planting hole to easily accommodate the roots.
You do not want to "squeeze" your peony root into the hole. We typically dig an approximately 1'x1' hole for our herbaceous and itoh peonies and a 1.5x1.5' foot hole for tree peonies.
For Herbaceous and Itoh peonies, plant the crown no more than 2" below the soil surface.
If you plant the root deeper than 2" the peony will flower poorly or not at all. Though i have never grown peonies in the south, i understand that some southern gardeners intentionally plant their peonies less than 2" deep. This helps ensure the root gets a good chill in the winter, which the plant needs in order to flower well and profusely.
Place the peony in the hole
When placing the peony root in the hole, we recommend that you first gently spread out the roots. Then put dirt into the first 6-8 inches of the hole. Place the spread out roots on top of the mound of dirt with the crown side up. At that point, confirm that the crown is no more that 2" deeper than the soil surface.
You may choose to water at this stage, just to help eliminate air pockets.
To finish the planting, you then cover the root with soil until the hole is filled to the existing soil surface level. Water again to remove air pockets.
As an additional safety measure, you may want to come back to your planting in a week or 2 and add a bit more soil to the top. This helps to ensure that your planting does not sink during the winter.
In colder areas, consider mulching for the first winter only.
In the colder regions, this protects the new planting from winter damage. The mulch is only needed the first winter and should be removed in the spring.
Herbaceous and Itoh Peonies require very little maintenance however some basic hygiene is required if you want to maintain optimal plant health and avoid disease.
Remove seed pods after the flowers have bloomed.
This is an optional step but on our farm we try to remove the seedheads once our plants have finished their bloom cycle. This encourages the plant's root to grow instead of putting energy into seed development.
Monitor for plant disease and remove any affected part of the plant.
In particularly wet years, it's common to have fungus like botrytis affect your peony plants. When you see this happening be sure to remove the affect foliage.
We do not have systemic fungus issues on our farm but, if we see that one plant is particularly affected, we do treat that plant with neem oil spray.
Remove all plant foliage in the fall when the plant goes dormant.
Discard or burn the foliage. Do not add it to your compost pile. Peony foliage that is not removed can harbor fungus. So this removal step is critical if you want to prevent disease in your garden the following year.