PRETTY IN PINK PEONIES

PRETTY IN PINK PEONIES

Oh, how I wish the pink peonies in my garden had longer lasting blossoms. I love the warm days of June; however, when the peonies burst into bloom, I say cool down, cool down. I want to prolong the beautiful pinks, whites, and yes, now yellow peonies. Their scent is heavenly, I love to bring bouquets into the house and fill my rooms with their fragrance. It reminds me of a fragrant rose.

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peonies in bloom
pink peony

I’d bury my face in the blooms, except I would likely come away with a few ants. What is it about the ants and peonies anyway? I’ve been told that the peony buds need the ants to eat the sticky wax off of them or they will be unable to open. So I did a little research to see if that was true. It sounded logical to me as ants are all over the buds and even on the blooms. I was surprised to discover that the ants are nothing more than freeloaders, there for a free meal. The peonies secrete a sweet sticky substance that attracts the ant who show up for the free food. Darn, I liked the myth better.

peony bloom with ant
Peony with Ant on the bud.
peony plants
Peony support cage, mine are hot pink.

Peonies are herbaceous perennials. The plant is easily divided and often passed down to younger family members or shared with a friend. They are VERY long lived. A peony plant will live for over a hundred years. It is easy to grow and not very fussy.

The pink peony has been hybridized to provide many varieties. There are very early, early, mid, and late season varieties. Some types have a single large bloom on the top of the stem. Other varieties have the central flower and a couple of weeks later smaller secondary flowers will bloom on the same stem. Careful removal of the central flower after it is done blooming will encourage the secondary buds to develop.

A common complaint about peonies is the flowers are so big and heavy (especially when rain-soaked) that they flop over and lay on the ground. I put a peony cage around my peonies when they first start to grow in the spring and train the growing stems to stay inside the cage. This prevents the flowers from flopping over and breaking the stems.

Rx for Pretty Pink Peonies:

1. Choose your site. The perfect location to plant your pink peony root is an area with good drainage and at least 6 hours of sun a day. Too much shade, the plant won’t reward you with as many blooms.

2. Choose the ideal season. Peonies should be planted in the fall. Peonies are sold bare root in September and October. They are sold packed in a little bit of peat moss. Plant them as soon as possible. 

3. Give their roots a great home. Dig a hole about 2 feet across and a foot deep. Add compost and mix about 1/2 cup of organic bulb fertilizer into the soil.

4. Lay the peony root horizontally in the hole. When you place the root in the hole, you will see that one end is thicker and there are several buds on it. The buds are pinkish and may have a little brown skin over them. They are about the size of the tip of your little finger. The buds should be 1-2 inches below the finished soil level. Mulch lightly the first winter.

5. If you live in the Eastern United States, your soil pH is likely low or acidic. Mix about 1 cup of pulverized limestone into the soil before you plant the root

yellow peony
peonies in bloom

What if you saw a lovely pink peony in bloom at your local garden center and couldn’t resist buying it? Now what; you have two choices, either keep it in the container until the fall or plant it now.
If you keep it in the container, put it in a sunny spot, and don’t let it dry out. Don’t overwater it either as it gets unhappy when it’s roots are soggy. In September cut the stems off and knock it out of the pot. Knock off the potting mix from the roots and plant it just like you would if you bought it bare root.
The other choice is to plant it in the ground as soon as it’s done blooming. The key here is to try and not disturb the roots. You don’t want to disturb the roots because this plant won’t put out new feeder roots until the fall. From September until frost peonies grow out all the roots that will nourish the plant throughout the next spring and summer. This is why it is best to plant peonies in the fall. To plant, knock it out of the pot and plant it in the hole you prepared without disturbing its roots.
A bare root planted peony may not bloom for 2 or 3 years after it is planted. So be patient, once it blooms it will reward you year after year with more and more blooms

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