Frequently Asked Questions

Forward your questions from here
Questions are answered as time allows

Moving Peonies
Blackened Stems
Blooms Won't Open
Floppy Peonies
Ants on Cut Flowers
Moving Peonies

Moving Peonies
Fri, 18 May 2001
I will be moving to a new house a the end of June or the beginning of July and will be taking my peonies that cam from my grandmother with me but the new house will not be ready to landscape when we move in.  it is new construction.  Is it ok to put my pronies in pots or do I need to plant then at another location right away or can I dry them and plant them in the fall.  Please help as I don't want to kill these beautiful plants.
Thanks, Deb
Dear Deb;
        This is a terrible time to move peonies safely. Is there any chance you can come back in August or Sept to dig your peonies? The later the better.

        I suggest that if you absolutely MUST move them, wait until as late as possible, dig them with as much soil and undisturbed roots as possible and replant them as soon as possible. 

        I know that lots of this is NOT possible during the hectic activity of a move so try to delay it. Be sure to prepare planting holes and fortify the soil before the peonies are dug so it will ease their move and replanting.

        Mostly good luck. Now's the time to place orders with nurseries for new peonies.
       Good luck on the move           Jim W.

Blackened Stems
Sat, 19 May 2001
I am not very familiar with peonies.  I have some in my yard that were planted
by a previous owner.  Some of them seem to do poorly and the stems and leaves
will turn black and shrivel.  What could possibly be the problem and what can
I do? The ones next to it look fine. . . 

Also, is there any special care that I need to be doing in general?  They are beautiful and I want to keep them looking great!

Thanks so much!

Dear L.B;
        You didn't give your location or recent climate/wether info which might help, but I think I have an answer to your problem.
        I think you have botrytis a very serious disease that can cause the problems you indicate. This fungus is encouraged if the weather has been especially cool and damp when stem are emerging. If you live in the northern states or Canada, plants seem to suffer more. 
        This condition can be treated by the classic spraying with Bordeaux mix just as the stems emerge and then a couple weeks later. Be sure plants have a lot of air flow around them and good drainage. This also reduces the damp conditions botrytis thrives in.
        If plants are old and crowded they may be even more prone to botrytis. 

        Check with your garden center for other treatments for botrytis. If the stems have finished coming up and spring has arrived where you are there isn't much more that can done this year. In fall clean up the peonies extra well. Remove all leaves and make sure the ground around the plants is clear. Throw away -do not compost- old peony leaves and stems.

        Of course if conditions described do not fit, please let me know more details.      Good luck.              Jim W.

Sun, 20 May 2001
Should I pinch off the smaller buds that appear on either side of the large center bud on my herbaceous peonies?  Will this make the center blossom bigger like the common practice for roses?
Thanks, JF.
Dear JF;
        Depends on what you want. Some growers pinch off all side buds as soon as they appear and this make a single larger terminal flower. Fine if that is what you want. These larger (especially if double) flowers are often the first to fall down in heavy rains and once bloomed, that's it.
        If you keep all the side buds you'll get smaller, but more flowers and over a longer period of time. 
        I never 'disbud' (as this is called).
        So, like roses, depends on what you want.
        Just stop and smell them. 
        Best            jim W.

Blooms Won't Fully Open
Tue, 22 May 2001
I was wondering why my peony's flowers don't open to a full bloom. They develop many buds, but never open up. What do you think the problem might be?  Any advice would be appreciated.
Dear M&E,
Full bloom depends on many factors.  Each variety is different in response to conditions.

Are they growing in full sun ?
Have they been fertilized?
Was there unusual weather during the last 3 months (heavy rain, cold snap, high winds, drought, etc.)?
When were they planted?
How do they compare to other peonies?
Are they planted at the right depth?

I also suggest you read Al Roger's book 'Peonies' available
at most public libraries.

                Good luck.              Jim W.


Floppy Peonies
Tue, 22 May 2001
I bought a house in central New Jersey last fall. The previous owner had planted peony bushes along both sides of the front driveway, there are almost 40 altogether. They are mature peonies because the previous owner planted them many years ago. I am new to peonies. I don't know what breed they are, but the bushes are robust and the flowers itself appear to be very large.  Some flowers have just recently opened with many more ready to bloom. The stems of some of the peony bushes are drooping, like they can not take the weight of its burden of leaves and flower buds. Is this normal for them to droop like that?? My mother says the stems are still young yet, and they will get stronger later in time and will eventually stand striaght on their own. Is this true? I've thought of putting stakes and rounding it with a thin wire to help keep them straight. Is this a good idea? OR.... What happens if I just leave it alone drooping as they are? Will it cause any  damage to the peonies, the flowers? I appreciate any help from you.
Thank you. LH
Dear LH,
You have a barrel of questions here- even if you don't know it.  I suggest you eventually go to the library and look for the book 'Peonies' by Al Rogers. Meanwhile,  Most of the old fashioned double flowered peonies were raised for the cut-flower trade. The flowers are so big they almost always fall down at the first rain, a wind or 'just because'. No cure known except you can buy what are called 'peony cages' similar to tomato cages.

Many people cut the flowers for indoor enjoyment or 'let them flop'.

If the plants have been there more than 3 or 4 years they will not improve their floppiness.

So it depends on how much this bothers you. If you give them a handful of fertile (to each bush) now and again in August you may improve the stem strength next year.

Just enjoy the scent and the color.

Good luck. Jim W.

Thu, 24 May 2001
I have just aquired my first peonies and I'm hooked!  They've all bloomed out
and usually I cut them as quick as they bloom and put them around my house,
but 1 I left in the yard (Just because it escaped me) and now when it rained
really hard the other day the blooms fell off and behold there was these 4-5
things sticking up in the middle of the flower head.  This little old lady
told me they were seeds and to pull them off and plant them and they would
sprout.  Is this true? and When is a good time? should I put one of those
muslin bag things over the flower head and wait to the seeds to fall?  Any
info would help also any book recomendations would be appreciated
Thanks    SA
Dear SA,
Those 'things in the middle of the flower' are carpels-really fruits.  Wait until these pods in the middle of the flower are ripe (maybe August). They will split open and show black round seeds the size of a small pea. As soon as the pods split, plant the seeds in the ground and water well. Do not hold on to the seeds or wait any longer than needed. Expect germination in spring and bloom in 3 to 5 years depending on care. Seeds may take an extra year to germinate, but have patience.
Seedlings may not look like the parent plant as most peonies are hybrids.
Required reading: 'Peonies' by Alan Rogers, Timber Press.
Good luck               Jim W.

 Tue, 22 May 2001
My plants have seed pods in the center of the bloom can I plant them when to do this and will they produce flowering plants?
Dear DOBR;
Wait until the pods in the middle of the flower are ripe (maybe August). They will split open and show black round seeds the size of a small pea. As soon as the pods split, plant the seeds in the ground and water well. Do not hold on to the seeds or wait any longer than needed. Expect germination in spring and bloom in 3 to 5 years depending on care. Seeds may take an extra year to germinate, but have patience.  Seedlings may not look like the parent plant as most peonies are hybrids. 
Good luck               Jim W.

Ants on Cut Peonies
Fri, 25 May 2001
I have beautiful peonies in my yard and would love to cut some and bring them
inside.  My question is, how do you get rid of the ants that are inside the flowers.  My great grandmother used to have peonies as well and I remember her bringing them inside and making a beautiful bouquet with them.  I can't seem to remember how she got the ants to disappear.  Would you have any idea?  I really love my flowers they are so pretty and vibrant, not to mention they smell wonderful.  Any thoughts you might have would be great.
Thanks for your help!                    JW
Dear JW,
Ants are no problems except for 'old wives' of proverbs. Cut the flowers on one foot stems, if there are a lot of ants, shake the stems gently. If ants are still on the flowers, place the cut stems in a vase and leave them outside for a few hours. The ants will abandon them. The ants are simply attracted to a sugary product of the peony flower. once that is gone, the ants go on to better food sources

Enjoy the wonderful smell of fresh peonies.    Jim W.

Moving Peonies
  Thu, 24 May 2001
A large group of old peonies are being dug up in about a week and I have been offered some of them.  What to I have to do to preserve them so that they will grow next season. 
Thanks WG
Dear WG,
First the dire warning that this is a bad time of year to dig and move peonies. If you can delay this until August or September you'll have better results. And not knowing where you live makes the answer a bit harder, too.

BUT if they must move and you get free plants, well....

First ,  make sure the plants you get (or help dig) are divided into small enough divisions. Big divisions will not do better than a division with 3 to 5 stems. That is enough and they'll recover and grow new roots faster.

Keep them out of the ground for a minimum amount of time.  This may mean digging holes ahead of time, mix in some compost and slow release fertilizer, a handful of bone meal etc. Keep the freshly dug plants damp and out of the sun. Plant in full sun and make sure they are replanted at the same depth they were growing and be especially careful not to plant too deeply. If they are too shallow
you can always throw some more dirt on them, but too deep is harder to alter.  After planting, water them well and make sure they are in a well drained site. Then I'd suggest a regular watering twice a week to keep them from drooping, but don't be surprised if they go dormant early. Fertilize again in August/Sept.
Don't expect bloom next year and hope they'll recover fully in 3 years. 

Check out 'peonies by Allan Rogers, Timber Press for more info.

Good luck               Jim W.

Next FAQ Page