Frequently Asked Questions
your questions from here
Questions are answered as time
Ants on Peonies
||Yesterday 6/3/2000 I went to the
local nursery in Western New York and found a beautiful shrub called a
Peony. It would look great in the landscape in front of our home,
amongst the yew's and the juniper plants. Well, after paying for it, and
walking back to my car, the salesman said, "you know those do attract ants".
My in-laws have said the same since we brought it home. 'You'll get
ants". So, please let me know if I should be afraid of planting a
Peony in a very nice landscaped bed, covered with dark mulch, in front
of my home. Will ants be a big problem, how big can this "shrub-like"
We have a beautiful, professionally landscaped
front bed. About 15
different shrubs and trees, but we needed some
color, so I took a chance
on the Peony. Might I be better off placing
it on it's own further away
from the house? Thank you for any comments you
can share on what appears to be a very pretty flowering shrub.
am glad you did not 'fall' for this 'old wives' tale' about an ant invasion,
but first some info:
peony you bought is probably not a shrub, but an herbaceous perennial that
will die to the ground each winter and grow back to full height each spring.
There are a few true shrub peonies, but these would be more obvious with
woody stems and branches.
guess you bought an herbaceous peony with large double flowers. These flower
buds can get to the size of a gold ball and the buds naturally exude a
sweet nectar like substance that does attract ants. The ants help the buds
to open fully. These few ants are very obvious on the unopened buds, but
they are the same few ants that are already in your garden and not new
armies of ants attracted from afar. I assume the existing garden ants are
no big deal; when the peonies have bloomed the ants will be no more
and no less than those now in your garden. They are just more obvious on
peonies get about 30 - 36 inches tall and equally wide. They are best planted
in fall. Plant in full sun.
Peonies in the South
||I live in Portland, Oregon and am
moving to Oceanside, Ca. I have been told that my peony will not
grow there. Can you enlighten me on the subject?
Thank You LDMR2
in Portland,OR you are in prime peony climate and can grow herbaceous and
tree peonies to their best. Most of the herbaceous peonies need a long
cold dormancy season and will either do poorly or perish in a climate as
warm as Oceanside in southern CA. If you are growing standard garden herbaceous
peonies, do not expect them to thrive or survive.
are alternatives and these depend on the exact local climate of your new
location. Some people have success with tree peonies and others with herbaceous
peony species from Mediterranean climates. I suggest you wait until you
get to your new location and ask local gardeners and nurserymen for
suggestions about which type do best for your area.
not expect the same peonies you are now growing.
Yellowing Peony Plants
||My grandmother lives in the southeastern
corner of Wyoming on a farm. Some of her favorite plants in her flower
garden are her peonies. She has a problem though. The plants are yellowing.
She said they are in bloom now. The are out in the open (not in a corner
or up against a fence) and in full sun. If there is any information you
could give me to pass on I would appreciate it.
Thank you very much!
is a hard one to tell. Normally peonies are pretty drought tolerant
as this might be a cause for yellowing foliage. If she is in a rural area
it might be that some creature has dug under the peony and damaged or exposed
the roots to allow the leaves to yellow. Check to see if there are mice,
voles-maybe even a prairie dog ???
course they may also need fertilizing. Many people think peonies never
need fertilizing and that can be true, but all peonies do better in fertile
soils. Some mineral deficiencies can cause yellowing too.
here's three things: 1) check to see if the roots have been disturbed in
some way. 2) Give the plants water -specially if it has been dry. 3) fertilize
them with a balanced fertilizer like 12-12-12 and including trace minerals
(might be an iron deficiency although this is very unlikely).
hope this helps, but I wonder if there might not be some other factors
of luck and enjoy your peonies.
Peony buds don't open
||I have a peony that I transplanted
from my mother's garden to mine. It's been
there for three years. Each spring it looks very
healthy, but the buds do not
open. The buds look healthy. The plant
gets sun all day long, and it's in a
bed with roses and other plants. Every thing
else is healthy and thriving in
that bed. What's going on?
||Dear peony grower;
think this is an easy question. One of the commonest errors in planting,
transplanting, moving or dividing peonies is planting the crowns too deeply.
Buds of most lactiflora peonies should never be planted more than 2 inches
deep. In practice, I prefer to plant them so that the buds are just at
the surface of the soil and then mound a small amount of soil over the
planted too deeply the buds may still emerge and grow foliage, but may
not bloom. Some peonies will take years to settle in and grow up to the
right level. Here's two solutions:
Wait. In a year or two the buds may have grown up to the right depth and
will bloom and get better each year after.
This fall, after the first frost dig around the base of the plant and try
to locate the bright pink 'eye' or dormant buds. If they are deeper than
advised, I suggest you dig out a shallow, but wide depression to allow
the buds to be situated at a shallower level. If they are really deep,
you may want to dig up the whole plant and re-set it at a shallower depth.
luck with this plant and enjoy your peonies.
Cutting Peony Flowers
||I have a beautiful peony plant in
my yard. I am located in Massachusetts. This plant is almost
in full bloom. Big white beautiful flowers and they smell wonderful.
My question?? I would like to cut
some of the flowers off and place in the house, but I am not sure if I
can do this and if so, where do I place the cut in the plant??
peonies wonderful? Seems like you are enjoying yours to the 'max'.
Peonies are the prime cut flower for most gardeners.
Here's a few guidelines.
When cutting use a clean sharp hand pruner and wipe off the blade with
a clean cloth when going from plant to plant to reduce risk of passing
any bacteria, viruses etc.
either fifteen inches of lower stem attached to the plant or no less than
four leaves on the lower stem. This varies from one variety to the next.
Removing more stem may weaken the plant.
3. Do no
cut more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the total blooming stems as this may weaken
Try to cut the stems in bud before they have opened fully. Peonies open
better indoors in even light and will not fade or spot as they might outdoors.
Peonies can be cut in even tight bud (and it takes some trial and error
here), then wrapped and kept in a fridge for up to a month, then brought
out and they'll open just fine. This allows you to cut stems when they
are abundant and enjoy the flowers indoors long after the plants outside
are done blooming.
quite a bit of trial and error, but if you cut buds early, chill some and
allow others to open indoors and on your plants, you'll have a long season
of bloom indoors and out.
your peonies and be sure to cut the best smelling ones for indoor arrangements.
||Hello I just found you're site on
the web and I was thrilled. I love peonies and have always wanted to grow
them. Unfortunatley I am just starting out in gardening and I am
not sure how to go about planting the peonies I just purchased. These
plants are just the roots and it says they should only be planted 2" deep,
is this correct? Also I was not able to access any of the info on
your web site? Do I have to be a member to open the web page? If so I will
be happy to join, in the meantime any information you can give me to help
would be very much appreciated!! One last question, what is the crown?
I read about that in the FAQ section (the only area I could access) and
it confused me because it sounded as if they were talking about the base
of the plant but crown makes me think of the top of the plant. I'm
not usually so dull-witted but I really want to have beautiful and healthy
plants and like I said earlier this is my first attempt at gardening and
I've never been considered a "green thumb".
is a whole set of beginner questions. I suggest you read
a good book like 'Peonies' by Al Rogers (Timber
Press) which will be
available at most libraries even if on inter-library
here's a few starting points:
should only be planted in the fall as 'bare roots'; these consist
of a couple of large thick roots with some pink buds. Older plants will
develop a 'crown' composed of all the current and old bud materials-sort
of between the buds and the roots.
you plant peonies in spring and summer they are less likely to succeed
or may take much longer to settle down. A typical purchased peony
'root' consist of 3 to five large pink buds and 1 to 3 thick roots up to
about 6 inches long.
must always be planted shallowly-that is the buds should not be more than
2 inches below soil level. What I do is plant them so that the tips of
the buds are 'just showing' at soil level. It soil washes away I can always
scrape a bit more soil on top or even scrape a bit more the first winter.
If they are planted too deep they may not bloom.
plant the roots in fall from Mid-Sept to late Oct and they do fine. They
are just going dormant then, but the still warm soil allows some new root
growth before cold temperatures.
Enjoy your peonies
Mulch, Fertilizer, Deadheading,
|| Would it be possible to add
some top soil and pine bark mulch around the plants to control the weed
problem or would this harm the peonies.
Also, what type of fertilizer would you recommend
and when should the plants be fertilized. Do plants need to have
spent blooms removed and do they need to be trimmed back in the winter?
||Make sure the buds are never more than an inch
or two from
the soil surface. NEVER. Add rich garden soils
as needed. You can
mulch to keep down weeds, but keep the mulch
off the stem bases and
do not cover buds.
Some people NEVER fertilize their peonies,
but I'd recommend
a modest application of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12
or similar in spring and
again in fall. Do not let it touch the stems
and if possible scratch
it into the soil. A liquid fertilizer may be
Do plants need to have spent blooms removed
and do they need to be trimmed back in the winter?
Spent blooms usually fall, but it depends on
how neat you need your garden to look. Some people go out and 'dead-head'
each day. If you want to grow seeds, you must keep the old heads of course.
As a general rule, when the frost has browned all the foliage, cut herbaceous
peonies to the ground removing all stems and foliage completely. Be sure
to remove this cut foliage from the peony area-it can be composted, burned
or thrown out. In some areas old peony foliage can harbor diseases.
Good luck and please read up on basic peony cultivation
'Peonies' by Alan Rogers (Timber Press)available
at most libraries.
Typical Development, Deadheading
||I have one peony plant (herbaceous)
which I planted in the Spring of 1999. It didn't bloom last year, but this
year I have six beautiful flowers. Are six flowers per
plant fairly normal? Should I have more? If so, what
should I be doing to have more flowers? Does "deadheading" the flowers
encourage new flowers or new growth?
Thanks, PG Arlington, Washington
peony variety is different. Some are more vigorous and have more flowers
than others. Newly planted peonies may not bloom at all for a year
and sometimes two, but usually increase each year. I'd say your experience
is fairly normal.
flowers are encouraged by regular fertilizing and weed removal. I suggest
you read 'Peonies' by Alan Rogers available in most libraries.
is mostly for looks and to prevent seed production. If your variety has
lots of buds per stem, prompt removal of early flowers will send more energy
to later buds and might get you a one or two more and larger flowers. Usually
it has little effect on growth.
||I have some peonies planted and they
are not growing so how deep should I plant them.
didn't give me much detail.
peonies should be planted in late summer to fall (Sept
or Oct) for best results.
should be in full sun or have very light shade. This
depends in part on what part of the country you
of the prime reason peonies fail is because they are
planted too deeply. The large pink buds should
be LESS than 2 inches
below the surface. I plant them at ground level
and heap a thin layer
of soil over them as needed.
demand good watering-especially the first year in the
ground, fertilizer and good cultivation.
this may all sound complex, peonies are generally
very trouble free, fool-proof and easy. I might
be able to tell you
some details of why your plants seem to have
failed if I knew more
about how and where they were planted.