Frequently Asked Questions

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Propagating Peonies
Buds Won't Open
Buds Won't Open
Propagating Peonies
No Blooms
No Blooms
Buds Wont Open
No Blooms
Old and No Bloom

Is it possible to root a cut piece of a Peony ?  I live in Alabama ! and want to increase my growth in my yard!
Dear SS,
        Since so many annuals and perennials root from cuttings, this is a natural assumption. Too bad it is false. Herbaceous peony cannot root from cuttings as they lack the specialized tissue in their stems to produce new roots.
        Some varieties can be propagated from root cuttings, but the best way is to dig them in the fall and divide into smaller plants of 3  or so 'eyes'. Usually a good sized plant will produce between 4 and 9 divisions that will bloom the next year. A bigger plant can produce dozens of divisions. Smaller divisions may take a year to grow enough to bloom.
        Good luck.              Jim W.

Buds Won't Open
I have 6 peony plants planted at the right depth and in full sun.  Two of the plants have nice flower buds emerging.  However, the other four plants have dark red, hard buds which blacken and fall off and do not develop flowers.  My peonies are ten years old.  What type of disease causes this?  What can I do about it?  Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Dear Jim;
        This is a hard question to answer a the problems could be quite varied. Pleae tell us a bit more to pin things down (maybe).

        Where do you live?
        Do you know what variety they are?
        Single or full double or ??

        What has the weather been like within the last month? Any
late or unseasonable freezes?

        Has anything changed in the climate or siting (more or less shade?)

        I know this may sound like grasping for straws, but disease is less likely than some recent change in their growing conditions.

        Will respond with more after hearing from you.

                        Jim W.

Buds Won't Open
For the second year in a row My peony bush has large buds on it that don't open.  The buds seem to be eaten but I see nothing on the plants except ants.  I really can't figure it out or find information anywhere on this subject. 
Dear T;
        Greetings. There are many reasons that cause buds to fail to develop or open. I suggest you need to look at the weather first.Every variety responds slightly differently to weather so what applies for one might not be similar for another. The most common reason buds fail to open is due to a frost or chill at 'just the wrong time' for that variety. I have two very similar hybrids planted side-by-side. One was covered in flowers early, while the other had small nubbins of underdeveloped buds and only 3 or 4 blooms on the east side of the clump. This shows the difference between close varieties and how the difference might be so slight it will variety from one side of the plant to another. In your case a sudden chill at a later stage of development may have damaged just the inner flower parts, but not the outer parts. This allowed the buds to swell, but the contents failed to develop.
        Peony growers need patience. Some years they are wonderful and some years they can 'poop out'. Disappointing, yes, but wait a year. Meanwhile continue to fertilize and water to encourage lots of new growth.
        If this continues, it may be the plant is planted in a site where it is subject to some other conditions. If it gets prevailing wind (and chill)this could prevent bud development. Or lack of certain nutrients, although this is not likely in most soils. And some cultivars just do not perform well in certain climates.
        Good luck               Jim W.

Propagating Peonies
I have two peonies of two different colors.  I would like to use these two parent plants to produce new plants.  I know that I can separate them this fall, but can I also start new plants from the seed pods of the old ones? If so, How can this be done? 
Thanks for any help you may provide.
TB, Lewisville, NC
Dear TB:
        I had to laugh a bit at your question. Of course peonies can be grown seed and the easiest way to do this is 'Plant the seed'.  Actually it is not so funny a question. Peonies will often self sow around a parent clump, but to insure good germination here's my simple suggestions:
        1. Plant seed as EARLY as possible after they ripen. Even if the seed pod is just barely split open, remove the seeds and plant them. This might be as early or July or August. Seeds are large and look like black 'peas'.
        2. To protect the seed it is better to plant the seed in a pot of good soil and keep it warm and moist until winter arrives. Bury the pot up to its rim in a protected site and cover with mulch over winter.
        3. Seeds should germinate the next March. Peony seeds need from one to 3 months of warm moist conditions followed by one to three months of cold conditions to complete germination. If they do not get enough warm, then cold, they may take another full year to germinate. Be patient.
        4. In fall plant the small seedlings in a good garden spot that can be kept weed free. They take 3 to 5 years to bloom. 
       You can also cross the two parents. Simpy take pollen from one and put it on the stamens of the other. The stamens are the structures in the very center of the flower and are surrounded by the stamens. Hybrids may be more vigorous.
        It is really easy and you might get some surprises in color of flowers.
                Good luck                       Jim W.

No Blooms
We have two peonies in pots that formed no buds/flowers although the foilage
is lush and looks healthy.  What can we do next year to get blooms?  We live
in Eugene OR.
C & N
Dear C & N;
        You didn't mention how long these peonies have been in those pots. Although they can be grown in containers, they need a really big container to be happy. Here's what i suggest:
        1.      Take a Tblsp of 12-12-12 or Osmocote of similar strength and scratch it into the surface of the pot around the inside of each pot.
        2.       Water it well and keep in light shade all summer. Keep it in tip top shape and growing well as long as possible.
        3.      In fall  (Sept in your location) plant it in good soil and full sun. Protect lightly with mulch the first winter. 
        4.      Around March remove the mulch add another TBLSP of fertilizer as above.
        5.      Hopefully it will come up in spring and grow well.Maybe it will bloom.
        6.      In 2 years of good growth in the ground. You won't believe your eyes.
                        Best wishes             Jim W.

No Blooms
 My aunt has three peonies which have stopped blooming. They are about 25 years old and used to bloom profusely. Now they have stopped. The plants are beautiful, but no blooms. The light conditions have not changed, nor have they been moved. The soil is conditioned with the other flowers  (irises).
Hope you have an idea. 
Thanks RM.
Dear RM
        Assuming there are no changes and you do not live in an extreme climate, there's a couple reasons why these might not bloom.
        They are too crowded or they have exhausted a poor soil. In either case here's what I suggest:

        1. Immediately sprinkle a hand full of 12-12-12 around each plant, scratch it into the soil and water well. Then if you don't get around to the rest it should help next year. You should do this again in August.

        2. In fall dig up the entire clump, divide it and replant. On an old plant you might get from 6 to 12 good divisions. Do not just replant it. Each division should have no more than 5 or 6 'eye' (pink buds) visible.

        3. After it is dug and divided, fortify the old site- add a cup of bone meal and a good handful of 12-12-12. Mix in some compost, some manure, some sand etc depending on your soil condition. Mix well and replant at the proper depth.

        4. Next year at least some of these divisions should bloom, but if not, it make take another year.

        Sounds like they have simply exhausted the soil.
                Best            Jim W.

Buds Won't Open
Thanks for your lovely peony website.  I have a peony problem which perhaps
you or someone from the society could answer.  I have one peony (not sure
of the variety) which is frustrating me.  It leafs out beautifully, and forms numerous large, round buds.  However, at that point, it STOPS.  The buds never open.  Eventually, the buds turn brown and drop off, and the top leaves get a brownish discoloration on the tips.  Any idea what this peony is needing?  Is some sort of rust fungus or other disease at work?  I'd love to find some source of information, but I have not been able to find anything about common peony diseases.  This plant is in full sun.  I have fertilized it.

My other peonies are doing fine.  They are in different locations from the reluctant plant.

Thanks for your help, 
Asheville, NC

Dear AM
        Yours is a common problem. And there are a variety of possibilities.
        1.  EVERY peony variety behaves slightly differently from
every other. A slight climate difference, a frost at just the wrong
time, some minor soil difference , etc. can all affect the growth,
vigor and flowering. The fact that this single isolated peony is the
only one that has this problem suggest something about the site.
Maybe it has cold spring winds that damage the bud as it is
developing. Maybe the site is too damp.
        In any case, I suggest the solution is to move the plant to a
better site.

        2. Botrytis is a common problem for peonies in certain
climates- especially where a cool damp spring can encourage this
fungus. One symptom is buds that develop to a certain state and then
drop off or fail to bloom.Have you seen botrytis in any other
peonies? Moving the plant may eliminate the environmental problem.
Spraying may also be required. Check any good plant disease book on
Botrytis or see Al Roger's 'Peonies' by Timber Press.

        3. Asheville is a bit south for a lot of peonies to be really
happy and this stress on this variety may just be a bad combination.
A different location may give the plant more(or less) chill, more(or
less) sun, etc.

        So my combined answer seems to be- move the plant. Since this
is the only plant in this location and the only plant with a problem.

        Do not try to move the plant until Fal-in your location any
time after Sept 1. Dig the whole plant and take the opportunity to
divide it into smaller divisions and try it in different parts of the
garden. Watch for your micro-climates where it is warmer, drier,
sunnier, etc. Prepare a good sail mix and fertilize in August before
the move and again in each new site. You may not see any difference
next spring, but expect good bloom the year after. Patience.

        Good luck       Jim W.

No Bloom
I have a peony that does not get buds on it, it looks very healthy but does not flower. what should I do, I love peonies and want to grow more. 
Pasco, WA.
Dear PF,
        There are really only a few common reasons for lack of bloom
in peonies. Does your plant fit this profile:

        1. Is you plant too young? If it was planted 1 or 2 years
ago, it may not have built up enough of an energy store in the root
system to bloom.

        2. Does it get enough sun?      Herbaceous peonies need at
least 6 hours of full sun to be happy and most prefer even more. Few
peonies tolerate shade.

        3. Is it planted at the right depth? If the crown -the part
where the buds are produced - is more than 2 inches deep (especially
in heavy soil), the plant may never bloom. The buds should be no more
than 2 inches deep. I usually plant new peonies just barely below the
soil line and then sprinkle a bit of fresh soil on top. Buds may even
be partly exposed depending on cold in winter.

        4. Have you fertilized your peonies? Some very poor soils do
not support long term bloom of peonies. Apply a handful of 10-10-10
or 12-12-12 around each plant in Spring and again in late summer.
scratch it into the soil and water well. This may take a year to see
a difference.

        5. Disease...but that is another story and least likely.

Good luck               Jim W.

Old & No Bloom
We have four, very-old peony bushes.  Two came from my great-great grandparents' homeplace and date from the 1930s.  I moved them last year and while they have produced lush foliage and very small flower buds, they haven't bloomed and don't look like they will.  The size of the flower buds hasn't changed for more than two weeks.  The other two are about 40 years old and came from my husband's grandparents' farm.  They have bloomed, but sparcely.  He
was hoping for a lot of blooms.  These plants were transplanted last year
as well.  All get a healthy dose of full sun and the soil is good. Will the 70-year-old plants ever bloom?  I have literally rows of more peonies that I could transplant any time.  And what can we do to get more blooms from he 40-year-old peonies?
Springfield, IL
Dear K&J;
        I don't have the crucial info from you to give 'my final answer', but peonies can live and bloom for well over a century so your 40 year olds are not even middle-aged. However you may have made a serious mistake. Moving an old peony is a big dirty job. The worst thing you can do is dig it up and replant it. Seriously, an old peony MUST be heartlessly divided down to renew and refresh itself. You should never dig a peony over 3 years old without dividing it. There's
simply too much to settle in well.  I suggest you dig each bush up again this fall (Sept in Springfield, IL) and either brush off the roots or hose out the majority of the soil. Cut the woody main 'crown' of the peony into smaller divisions, but not over 5 or 6 buds per division (the buds are those pink swellings at the base of this year's stems). One old clump may provide you with 10 12 even 20 or more suitable divisions.  If you want the effect of a big clump, plant three divisions in a
triangle about 12 - 15 inches on the sides with a plant at each point.

        Plant the others, give them to friends etc.

        Take a look at Al Roger's book on 'Peonies' or other good info about how to plant peonies: full sun, shallow and well prepared holes.

        I don't guarantee flowers next spring, but after this you'll be amazed at how they are rejuvenated and you may have dozen of healthy 'young' vigorous peonies instead of just 3 'senior citizens.

                Good luck               Jim W.

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