How to Plant and Care for a Peony Plant

My grandmother grew peonies so they became a favorite of mine. Plus they have beautiful flowers and a fragrance that carries throughout the yard in spring when you are craving for the first flowers after winter. Peony 'Suzy Q'
Creative Commons License photo credit: kkmarais

Their glossy leaves also look nice in the border though fall. I plant annuals and a few perennials near the base of the flower for added color. Note: if you plants want to topple over you can stake them or use a tomato cage to hold them up.

Peonies suffer from very few insect and disease problems. They need little maintenance once established.

Planting peonies

  • It’s best to plant peonies from September through early October. Spring planted peonies often mature much slower than fall planted peonies because they must live through their first summer with a small root system but if you plant peonies in the fall they will spent the time making a study root system.

  • Plant your peonies in an area with fertile, well-drained soil that get at least six hours of sun each day. If you live in a hotter area you will want to plant the peonies in an area that gets afternoon shade. A southeast side of a house would be a good idea.

  • Peonies can live for a century if planted properly. They prefer not to be disturbed, so take time to choose the plants location.

  • Peonies can grow three-feet high and wide, so space the plants three to four feet apart. Prepare the plants new home by digging a 24-inch by 24-inch hole for each plant. Mix four inches of compost or aged manure and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of granulated organic fertilizer into the soil you removed.

  • It’s important to plant the peonies at the correct depth. If you are planting a bare root division, dig a shallow hole (two to three inches deep) in the prepared soil, then plant the root clump. Make sure that the eyes are no more than two inches below the surface of the soil.

  • For a potted peony, dig a hole in the prepared soil that is the same depth as the pot. Plant the peony and make sure to set the plant exactly even with the soil line. Peonies planted too deep will struggle to establish, which will cause the plants to and take years to bloom. If you are planting a tree peony, set the graft four to six inches below the soil’s surface.

Peonies are sold either planted in pots, as bare root divisions or as trees. Choose large potted plants or bare root clumps with at least three to five pink growth points. Bare root division usually a greater number of varieties to choose from and they are less expensive.

Enjoy your peony plants! They will add color to your gardens for years. They also make great cut flowers

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7 responses to “How to Plant and Care for a Peony Plant”

  1. […] Add a peony to your garden. It will quickly become one of your favorite plants. Check this article for instructions on how to plant peonies: […]

  2. joyce

    In southern Indiana, when can I cut the plants down and clean up the area?

  3. Joyce

    When can I cut down my Peony bushes, which have all fallen over and laying
    on other plants down here in southern Indiana, please? I don’t want to damage my Peonies by cutting them off to early, but they are a mess!!!

  4. Denise

    Hi Joyce,

    If you cut your peonies off too soon you will hurt their growth the following year. If possible try to add some stakes around the plant to help hold it up off your other plants.

    One thing that works well is a tomato cage. Place the cage around the plant in the spring and this will help hold the plant upright.

    If the plant is bigger than the cage add more wire or cloth to hold the plant up or go tho a bigger metal cage support.

  5. Denise

    I cut my plants down in the fall. In my zone 5 climate that is late September or early October. Denise

  6. Cher

    I normally would agree with this in the Boston area, Denise, however this year it has been raining everyday with the exception of one and a half days in a span of nearly three weeks!! And the forecast is for this to continue for the next week minimally…there are no perennials left; peonies are so waterlogged that they have fallen over despite their being supported. They have literally fallen on top of new groundcover. It has toppled over the arabis on another on and so on..There are hardly any blooms left on the stalks; what is appears rotted and very sparse. these are goners. I had a landscaper over on a sunny day and had wanted him to cut them down but he refused. In this case I was right. They needed to be cut in order to prevent what happened. What a mess.

    The seeds I planted are now in the middle of a veggie mud garden. There needs to be a rethinking of how to keep a garden in this area because the weather conditions have been rapidly changing unfortunately..cher

  7. Denise


    The landscaper probably didn’t want to cut the peonies knowing they would bloom sparsely or not at all the following year. Sometimes a a difficult call making these decisions in a summer with difficult weather conditions.

    Raised beds might help in your growing area. My gardening season has also been too wet. Denise

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