4Peony Care Instructions
Peonies do best where the winters are long and very cold. They can handle negative winter temperatures, snow, frost and will grow best if temperatures drop to between 2*C and 5*C for 30-60 days in the winter.
Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape, Free State, Mpumalana and the Eastern Cape provinces all have suitable regions. Your peony will die back completely in winter, do not fear, it will reappear in summer when red coloured shoots emerge from the ground.
- Garden Planting
Your peonies have been cleaned of all soil and dipped in copper sulphate. Expect a copper sulphite crust on the roots as a result. Please soak your plants in water for at least half an hour before planting them out.
Herbaceous peony roots should be planted in well drained sandy soil. Peonies like morning sun with afternoon shade. A neutral pH 6.7 is best, so adjust your soil accordingly.
Don’t plant them near trees and shrubs that will compete for food. Peonies can be left in the same place for 40-50 years. Peony roots double in size every year. After a few years you can lift them in the autumn, split the root to have 3-5 eyes and re-plant each root. Bear in mind that this means it will take another 3 years to get long stems and numerous flowers.
Dig over the soil and remove the clods, add some good quality compost and a handful of bone meal. Then plant out the root, the eyes should be about 4cm (two horizontal fingers) below the soil level. Don’t plant them too deeply as they won’t flower well. Planting too deeply is the biggest mistake that can be made. Planting is best done in the autumn and winter months once the eyes are formed on the roots and the green foliage had died back. Potted varietes still need very large pots and will also do very well in the ground.
- Watering and Fertilizing
Although peony plants are hardy they are “English Garden” type plants. Water 2-3 times a week in spring and summer to ensure good flowering.
Peonies can be fertilized with 2-3-4 in spring and again after they have flowered. They don’t like to have wet feet so don’t overwater.
- De-budding and Weeding
Your peony plants should only be allowed to flower next year or if you are well disciplined the year after next. Pinch off all the buds in spring, leave as many leaves on as you can as this will strengthen the roots and give you many (6 -24 are possible) more flowers from year 3 and a stronger more vigorous plant. To increase bud size remove side buds from the main stalks.
Weed around the peonies to ensure they don’t compete for sunlight, food and water.
- Cutting back in Winter
Once your peonies have died back in winter you will need to cut them down. Leave stalks about 5-10cm above the ground, so you know where they are in your flower bed. In the spring they will put up beautiful red fat shoots.
- Care in the vase
Congratulations, you have waited patiently for 3 years to produce a prolific and robust plant. In year 3 you can enjoy these flowers in your home as well as the garden. When cutting stems leave 3 sets of leaves at the bottom of the plant near to the ground to provide food for the roots. The root system is doubling in size every year below the ground.
If you pick your peonies when the first petals are unfurling they will last in the vase for 10 to 14 days. Peonies do get thirsty so submerge them in deep water and replace the water every 3-4 days. Remember to keep the vase filled with water as peonies are thirsty in the vase.