Frequently Asked Questions

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Propagating Peonies
Paeonia Molokosewtischii
Planting Peonies
Peonies & Dogs
Peonies in the South
Fertilizing Peonies
No Blooms

Propagating Peonies
How can I propagate paeonia. I must write a referee about the propagation of paeonia.
Dear Sir;
        You have asked far too big a question for this mere web site to answer.
        There are in general three methods depending on the type of
peony involved.
        1) Most named herbaceous peonies cvs. are propagated by
simple division in the fall, but 2) named tree peonies are mostly
propagated by grafting and 3) of course all peonies can be propagated
by seed under some rather specific conditions.
        Instead of going into the many details involved, I suggest
you read further: "Peonies" by A. Rogers is a good start, then "The
Garden's Guide to Growing Peonies" by M. Page will add more. Both
from Timber Press.
        Good luck in your studies as this is a rather involved
subject with some specific techniques involved.
                Best            Jim W.

Paeonia Mlokosewtischii
I have been looking for a source for the subject plant for a number of years.  I know Heronswood Nursery, Ltd. has it for sale but they have been out-of-stock and will remain so thru 2001.  If you could please - let me know a source(s) for this plant I should appreciate it as well as any information about growing(tips that you may share) this species. 
Thank you DM
Dear DM;
        Paeonia Mlokosewtischii is a much sought after herbaceous peony species. There are a number of nurseries who might offer seedlings and very few who occasionally offer blooming size divisions. This is not the season to try to purchase any. It is not the custom of the Heartland Peony Society to endorse any specific seller, but I can mention a few names for you to pursue, all have grown and offered this species in the recent past:

        Heronswood Nursery as you have named
        Galen Burrell at
        Caprice Farm Nursery -they have a website.
        Reath's Peonies in Vulcan MI.
        Seneca Hill Perenials in Oswego NY

        I realize this may take a bit of searching and even though they may not list this species, inquire and they may have a few plants available. Expect delivery in fall of 2001.

        Best wishes             Jim W.

Trimming & Deadheading
Is it okay to cut peonies to the ground after they have bloomed and turned somewhat dead looking?  I haven't, but would like to, but certainly don't want to hurt them. My other question is,  the flowers often make what appear to be seed heads. Are they?  If so, can I plant them and will they grow?  How long would it take for seeds to make a transplantable plant?
Dear J;
        You sound like a new and enthusiastic peony grower with lots of questions. I'll try to answer, but you asked some 'big' questions.  Go to your library and look for the book "Peonies" by Al. Rogers. He goes into more details than I can here.
        After peonies bloom and by mid-to late summer than can look pretty ratty. The best bet is to keep watering them and keep them growing as long as possible. Some people cut their peonies down as early as August, while others wait until after a hard freeze. It makes sense that the longer they are growing the more energy they are
sending back to their roots for next years plants and flowers. Never cut them back as early as June or July.
        All peonies grow from seed, but not all peonies make seed.Hybrids may be sterile(seedless). To get good healthy seed, leave the flower stems intact after bloom and give extra water and fertilizer. By August you should have large pods developing on each stem. These pods have large dark brown, black or sometimes bluish
seeds about the size of a small pea.
        Plant the seeds as soon as the pods begin to open even if they are not quite dark black yet. Plant them in good soil and water them well all fall. If you are lucky they will germinate the next spring around April or May. Peony seedlings are quite small and grow slowly. Under good care they can bloom in 3 years.
        If you do not plant them soon enough in late summer or fall for them to get some of fall's warm weather, the seed might 'sit' in the ground an entire year! and not germinate until the next spring. So plant them as soon as you can.
        Once you have succeeded in growing peonies from seed you may want to try crossing different colors and varieties. Again see the Rogers book for info.
        Enjoy the fun and flowers.              Jim W.

Planting Peonies
I have bought four boxes of Kansas and Shirley temple peony's, this may be a stupid question, but does the new growth that is sprouting go up or down. I would appreciate any help you can give me.
Dear JS;
        I am not sure what you mean about 4 "boxes" of peonies, maybe those thin cardboard boxes like from Home Depot or Lowe's each with one peony root.
        First I'll warn you that spring is the wrong time to plant peonies. Mass market nurseries try to cash in on the spring garden market by selling peonies at this time of year, but the best time to plant is in the fall. But you have these in hand and what to do?
        First orient yourself to the plant.
        There are thick roots pale brown to pinkish in color-these go down.
        Then there are deep red to pink buds- these go up. It they have started to grow the buds may have turned around, try to make sure they planted with the tips of the buds going up.
        If you haven't planted them yet, soak the whole plants over night in warm water to which you have mixed in a drop or two of dish detergent. That is 2 drops per gallon of warm water.
        I'd recommend you plant them one root each to a large plastic pot of about 2 gallons capacity. Plant them so that the base of the bud is at the soil surface. Tamp the soil down firmly, water well, then sprinkle a handfull or two of soil just to cover the surface buds.
        Keep the plants in a cool well lighted spot and away from heavy frost until the weather warms. Grow them all summer in these pots keeping them well watered until fall- Sept or Oct and then plant them in the ground in a final spot. Hope they have recovered from their digging, storage and selling at the wrong time.
        Good luck- I think you'll need it. They will probably take a couple to three years to recover and bloom properly.
        Best            Jim W.

Peonies & Dogs
Good afternoon! I have a question about my peonies...I hope you can help! The flowers were already planted at our home when we moved here in 1997 (I don't know how long they've been here).  The first Spring we were here they did beautifully!  The leaves were green and lush and there were many pink and white flowers.  Ever since then, they have been going downhill! They are planted in our front lawn with ample afternoon sunlight. The area where they are planted is about 6ft. x 3ft. What happened last year and I think what is happening again this year is that the reddish stems are coming through the ground on one side of the area but not the other!?  We do have a dog (who has neighborhood 'friends' that come to play) and I try to keep them out with 6"tall fencing but I think sometimes they still manage to urinate in this little area!  Could this have had an effect on the peonies?  What can I do to revive them? Fertilizer? Miracle Gro? Unfortunately, I can't move them because no other area on our property gets as much sun. 
Many thanks, Liz.
Dear Liz
        There are a lot of variables, but here's a guess. If the peonies were growing and blooming well before the fence and dogs, it is safe to conclude that the fence and (more likely) the dogs are the cause. Dog urine can cause major harm to peony foliage because of the concentrated urea and ammonia products. Once the foliage has been damaged (and possibly the roots, you have a cycle of continued damage.
        Here's a couple possible solutions-assuming you want to keep the peonies AND the dog!
        1. Give the dogs another target. Not as difficult as it seems, but check out a library book on this.
        2. Make this spot less user friendly. Put up a solid fence for the first foot or 18 inches. Surround the area with sharp gravel for a a foot or so. Plant a ring of thorny plants like miniature roses (or something that might be more tolerant of dog urine).
        3. You might check out some other methods of diverting the dogs to another area for their 'watering'.

        Basically you have to keep the dog urine off the peonies or they can eventually ill the plants. Good luck and hope you have some nice fragrant flowers!!
          Jim W.

Peonies for the South
I am from one of the Caribbean Islands and had never seen Peonys until I came 
to Texas.  I live in Central Texas, just outside of Austin.  Several years ago I bought two bushes from Jackson & Perkins catalogs.  In the beginning they bloomed really well. However the last couple of years although they bush out nicely, and produce a lot of buds the buds do not mature but become hard and does not open.  I am not sure what to do about it.  I really love these flowers because of their beauty and fragrance but am at a loss what to do next.  Can you help? 
Thanks. SG
Dear SG;
         I suspect you are a bit far south for most herbaceous peonies to grow well. Most of the modern peonies are derived from northern species and hybrids and perform really well in Zones 5 or colder. In Zone 6 they do well, but go down hill in warmer zones without an extended winter dormancy. I am not sure exactly how cold the Austin area is, but here's a guess.

        I think peonies should be in bloom for your area about now.  Drive or walk around your neighborhood. Do you see ANY peonies in bloom? Since healthy peonies are long lived, they usually outlast most homeowners, so even in unattended gardens or small cemeteries you should see large healthy peonies in bloom. If you do not see any (my suspicion) it is probably too warm there.

        The best chance for better results is to purchase a couple peonies from a specialty peony grower and ask about what varieties they'd recommend for warmer climates. Jackson and Perkins are not specialty growers. You can check out the Heartland Peony Society web page on "Sources" for a place such as Caprice Farm Nursery or Gilbert Wilds and Sons. Call them and give them your location. They are knowledgeable about specific varieties that they sell and know do well in your area.

        I think you will have a limited choice, but some should be better than others.

        Good luck.              Jim W.

Fertilizing Peonies
I keep reading about fertilizing the peonies, but I cannot find what type fertilizer to use.  Every book I have as your FAQ page does also, just says fertilize them.  But what do I use-5-10-5: 5-10-10; 10-10-10, bone meal etc.  Hope you have a recommended fertilizer.
Dear L;
        One of the joys of peonies is that they just are not fussy. Here in the midwest you can find very old peonies in nearly abandoned cemeteries blooming their heads off. This with little or no care for decades.
        Of course like all plants they do respond to fertilizer. I'll admit laziness and I give mine a handful of 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 in the spring (Just did this last week as the new shots are coming out. Some people do this twice-once in spring and again in late summer (August) before they go dormant. If you do this, I'd suggest a
different fertilizer-lower in Nitrogen (the first number) such as 5-10-10 or even 5-10-5. This will encourage bloom over foliage.
        Since they are so 'un-fussy', my only warning is to not over fertilize. You can tell this by weak stems, soft foliage and reduced bloom. I also do not fertilize a new plant until it has been in the ground for at least a year!.
        Enjoy           Jim W.

No Blooms
I planted one peony tuber last year. It grew stalks and leaves but did not bloom. This year it is healthier than last year and even has buds but the buds are not swelling and I am afraid they will not bloom.The peony is planted in good garden soil in a bed with my rose bushes. Do you think the peony needs more time to develop? What type of fertilizer do you recomend.? Many gardeners in my neighborhood grow lovely peonies. Thank you for your advice, 
Dear VK
        Welcome to the world of peonies. Peonies are for the patient.
        I don't know where you got the peony, but peonies roots are often stressed a lot from digging, shipping, sitting on a shelf, resale and eventual planting-whew! Amazing they grow at all!
        Since you grow in an area you KNOW grows good peonies, I suggest the main ingredient in good peony culture-patience! Professional growers usually recommend a three year cycle to establish a peony.
        Year one recovery -maybe a bloom or two (which was set before digging)
        Year two  settling down- may not bloom this year, but put up more stems
        Year three - expect first real bloom and more stems and taller growth.
        Year four and for at least 40 or 50 more years - no trouble.
        It is always a good idea to take a handful of 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 (or similar) and sprinkle it around the edge of a peony clump; once now and again in August or so. If you do that each year, you'll have great peonies.
        So have patience and think about the bounty to come.
        Best            Jim W.

Planting Peonies
I dug up some peonies in the fall and was unable to get them in the ground before it turned cold.  Is there still a chance that they will grow if I plant them now?  Or am I just out of luck and need to throw them away?
Dear ;
        Without knowing a little about where you are ,I'll assume wherever it is-it's spring. You are in big trouble. 
        Also not knowing what they look like or how they have been stored I'd say you are in trouble.
        All told-not good, but instead of throwing them away, plant them. I'd suggest a good rich soil, well dug and blended, Add a handful of 10-10-10 and mix well. Plant them with the pink eyes no more than 1 inch deep-barely covered. If there are no pink eye-give up.
        Water well and once they come up (if they do) do not let them dry  completely.
        And don't be optimistic.
        Good luck.              Jim W.

ps Next fall - check out the HPS sources and buy yourself some nicer, newer peonies in a variety of colors.

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