Peonies give wonderful colour to borders and also give you cut flowers in late spring and early summer. Their large, often double flowers in whites, pinks and reds add an element of romance and glamour to any garden. Peonies are beautiful in bloom, with lush foliage all summer long.
Herbaceous peonies differ from woody-stemmed tree peonies in that they die back to ground level every winter. Peonies are often considered difficult to grow, but with some basic care they can provide colour and enjoyment for many years;
- Ideally plant in full sun, though a few will tolerate light shade
- Most prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soils; some such as P. anomala are best planted in slightly acid soil
- Good drainage is essential
- Peonies are relatively drought tolerant when established though flowering may be reduced during particularly dry spells at the time of flower bud development
- Feed with a balanced general, fertiliser such as Growmore in the spring, but avoid over-feeding with high nitrogen fertilisers.
- Plants grown on rich soils generally require little feeding
- To conserve moisture and suppress weeds, mulch around the crown with 5-7.5cm (2-3in) organic matter such as composted bark, garden compost or well-rotted manure. Avoid covering the crown itself
- The flower stems may not be strong enough to keep the often heavy flamboyant flowers upright and staking is often required
- It is generally best to cut the foliage to ground level as it dies back in the autumn to reduce risk of peony wilt
These perennials may live longer than you do — some have been known to thrive for 100 years. The plants require little maintenance as long as they are planted properly and establish themselves; they do not respond well to transplanting.