How to Plant Peonies
These beautiful blooms aren't as tricky to grow as you may think.
If you're thinking of planting peonies, we have some very good news: "Peonies are easy to grow and can thrive in any garden because they don't need much care," says Lester Poole, Lowe's live nursery specialist, who adds that "peonies are one of the most enduring of garden perennials," too. Growing beautiful, bountiful peonies starts with proper planting—which isn't quite as easy. But with these steps, you'll be well-equipped to grow a peony garden you're proud of in a single season.
Buy a Plant—Not Seeds
While planting a grown peony all-but guarantees a flowering plant the following spring, starting with seeds can mean delaying blooms for up to seven years, warns Poole. For that reason, our expert advises purchasing a grown plant when you're ready to plant—or months before. As Poole explains, even though peonies should ideally be planted in the fall and that most peonies are available in the spring in the form of "dormant divisions of named varieties." Those dormant divisions have perks beyond wide availability: "These offer great performance the first year," he says.
Plant Peonies in the Fall
The best time to plant peonies is in the fall, says Poole, who explains this allows "feeder roots several weeks of growing time before the ground freezes." He recommends planting peonies anytime from late September to early November. "You might not be happy about the cool weather outside in the fall, but your plants will be," Poole says. "Air temperatures are dropping, but the soil is still quite warm—which is perfect for root development." Plus, he explains, "Cooler temperatures mean plants are less stressed by heat and plentiful rainfall can help roots grow and store up energy reserves for the next growing season."
Plant Peonies in a Sunny Area—and Not Too Deep
Peonies thrive in sunlight, so find a sunny spot for your new plants. Then, plant the roots so that the plant's buds—or "eyes," as they're more casually called—are only one to two inches below the ground. (A good test is making sure the crown of the plant is at ground level, he says.)
Water the Base of the Plant, Not Its Leaves
Once they're planted, it's important to focus water on the base of the peony, not its leaves. Too much water on its leaves can cause leaf diseases, while consistent watering of the plant's base will help it thrive. Weekly watering (until flowers have wilted) is a good guideline.
Mark Them with a Plant Stake
You won't want to step on your freshly planted peonies after they have gone dormant for the winter. (Doing so can injure their shoots, Poole says.) So, Poole suggests you plant a marker or stake with your peonies, so that you'll know where they are.