Peony News

Peony bloom season has come and gone this year. I always wish it would go on and on. We had unusually warm weather this spring, and some of the peonies bloomed earlier than usual or out of their normal sequence. Many of the mid-season and late season peonies popped out nearly simultaneously, as we experienced just the right amount of warmth in mid to late May.

We had peonies blooming over a 10 week period with the earliest varieties blooming by April 11th and the latest varieties holding onto a few blossoms this past week.   Scouting the peony field for the latest blooming peonies found Avalanche, Bouquet Perfect, Cheddar Surprise, Lavon, Lucky, Mt. Saint Helens and Princess Margaret still displaying blooms during week 10 of our 2014 season. Gay Paree and the Itoh peony Yellow Heaven, both mid-season bloomers with prolific side buds kept on blooming and blooming through the very end of the season.

After the bloom, we deadhead the peony plants, cutting off the flower heads. We leave a few to produce seed, which we will collect in late summer.  If you do want to produce seed, leave the flower head on the plant and wait until late August to see if it produced viable seed. The plant uses a lot of energy (food reserves) to produce the seed; so, if you deadhead the peony stems after the bloom is done, the energy can be used for future stem and root growth.

To deadhead a peony: clip (cut) the stem just below the dead flower head to remove it. Tidy up your plant by cutting the top couple of inches off the stems to even out your plant. Leave the bulk of the stems/foliage through the summer. They will be cut down to ground level in the Fall, when the plants go dormant for the winter.

Some gardeners like to give their peonies a bit of fertilizer after the bloom season. Be sure to water newly transplanted and young peony plants through the first couple of summers. Once they are established and several years old, peony plants are rather drought tolerant.

It’s mid-summer and hot. While established peony plants are rather drought tolerant, they will appreciate a good ‘drink of water’ this month. Be sure to water your newly transplanted peonies occasionally – they need the moisture to help establish vigorous roots. First year peony plants are establishing roots, increasing in size over the next two years. By the third season, peony plants develop a tremendous root system to support an abundance of dazzling blooms.

Give your peony plants a quick look to see if they need sprucing up for the remainder of the summer. If you didn’t deadhead (cut the flower head/seed pod) after the plant bloomed and you aren’t planning to collect seed – grab a clippers and cut the (dried up) flower heads off the bush. Discard in the garbage. You can trim down or clip off any stems/leaves that are tattered or died back early this season.  A day after a good watering, weeds can be easily removed.

If you are anticipating collecting peony seed, leave the pods to finish developing. They will start to crack open, exposing their seed in late August (varies by variety). You can then collect the seed and sow it into the soil or containers. Keep moist until the fall rains arrive. Check in the spring for germination. Many seeds will sprout the first spring and some will sprout the second spring. You never know what amazing new peony variety you might grow.

We had a Coral Supreme peony flower last week.  It may have just been a slow blossom; but, it was 6-7 weeks after they originally bloomed this spring. What a treat to see. Last year we had a Callie’s Memory re-bloom and the year before one of our Coral Charms re-bloomed. Such beautiful flukes of nature. 

Keep cool. 

July 25, 2012

To keep your peony plants looking great through the summer and fall, clip off tattered leaves and stems. Be sure to take a look at the bottom of the bush and check to see if slugs are hiding in the shade of the stems.

A good drink of water every couple of weeks and they’ll be showing their fall colors in style come September and October. This summer has been plenty hot in most of the states, so an occasional deep watering will be welcome, whereas other years you may have a few good rainfalls and not need to water your established peony plants.

Remember – a potted peony plant needs more frequent watering.

Some folks like to give a bit of fertilizer after bloom season and others never fertilize their peonies in the summer. Some soils are richer in nutrients than others, so feel free to see what works best with your plants in your garden.

I’m already thinking about new varieties we’ll be planting this fall. Gardening & farming bring out my anticipation of nurturing and growing something that will bring joy down the road. I’m scoping out where I want to add peonies in our garden this fall – some of the shrubs will just have to go!

Therese

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