It’s always a pleasure to hear how your peonies are doing and to see the thrill in your faces when you tell us they bloomed the first year. While we can’t know for certain if a first year peony will bloom, many do. We appreciate the reviews and testimonials on our peonies (yes, on rare occasions I have sent out a dud - and we do stand behind our product with a first year guarantee).
I received a couple of phone calls this week from customers who planted peony roots from Brooks Gardens last fall. One lady expressed complete surprise that her plants were blooming just months after planting them bare root. I told her that most peonies will have a small flower or two the first spring; but, sometimes they need an extra year of root development to produce flowers.
Another woman came out to the farm to tell us her peony root was planted in a large flower pot last fall and produced 5 flowers. I forgot to ask her what she did, as that was amazing, even for a peony grower like me.
Then a nervous customer phoned. He planted over 80 peony roots from our farm last fall. He had planted them with just one to two inches of soil over the eyes (buds on peony roots), careful not to plant too deep. They grew beautifully and even though he was elated that virtually every one bloomed this spring, he was in a panic. Seems in his exuberance of seeing so many beautiful peonies, he cut many of them for friends to enjoy. Then a friend told him he shouldn’t cut a first year peony stem, she cautioned him that he might be damaging his maturing plants. He was filled with anxiety.
I explained that wisdom states we should pinch off a first year peony flower bud, early in its development – to encourage more root growth. This is extremely hard to consider for most peony gardeners – even more difficult to do. Who doesn’t want to see their baby peony bloom? You certainly may get extra root development by disbudding baby peonies their first spring; but, don't fret if you didn’t.
I suggested he leave a whorl or two of leaves on each stem, not cutting them to the ground, which will help with plant nourishment in the summer. He was relieved that he had done that.
I told him not to worry, that I have done it all – and at three and four years, I see no noticeable difference in most peony plants, whether started from bare root or from a nursery container. First and second year peonies are generally small plants, growing a massive root for all the flowers they’ll produce after 3 years. If we do something that hinders root development, it may simply take another spring to get the plant to maturity.
Go ahead and enjoy your peony flowers – they should reward you each spring for decades.