How To Plant A Peony

Peony -  (Paeonia spp.)

Zone:  3 – 8

Height: .61 -.91 m.      Width (Spread): .91 - 1.21 m.

One of my earliest recollections of flowers was admiring the pink peony by my grandparent’s front door on the farm.  Spring after spring, it would burst forth from the soil and produce the most glorious large pink flowers I had ever seen.  They were, and still are, a staple of farm gardens in Saskatchewan.  A gorgeous flowering shrub that needs very little maintenance but gives back so much.  An added bonus – most are very fragrant!  The most fragrant are generally the double white and pink flowering varieties.

Peonies were found in the gardens of China and used medicinally from as early as 1000 BC!  By the 8th century they were being grown in Japan, who is still the major producer of peonies today.

There are a few important facts to know about peonies.

There are three groups of perennial peonies:

Herbaceous – They die back to ground level in late fall and re-emerge each spring.

Intersectional – also known as Itoh peonies – They also die back to ground level each fall.

Tree Peonies – Not hardy enough for our Zone 3 climate.


Peonies can also be identified by bloom type, bloom season and color.

Peonies come in many colors but mainly shades of purple, red, white, and yellow.  There are early, mid and late season blooming varieties.  This helps to prolong the blooming season which is usually late spring to early summer. 

Once planted they do not like to be disturbed and do not transplant well. They also do not take kindly to be divided.   Pick a location in full sun and out of the wind.  Plant your peony in a compost rich soil that has good drainage.  If they love where they are, they can live for 100 years or more!

Peonies can be planted in the early fall as well as spring.  If you do want to move a mature plant, do this in fall after the plant has gone dormant.

Young peonies can take a few years to establish and bloom profusely. 

They are deer and rabbit resistant.

Peonies do not like to compete with tree/shrub roots.  If you have them beside shrubs or under a tree, they may produce only a few blooms or not bloom at all due to the root competition.  A late hard frost may damage flower buds as well.  Other reasons a peony may not bloom are extreme drought, too little light and over fertilizing. 


And now to planting.  The cardinal rule regarding planting a peony is not to plant it too deep.  Peonies that are planted too deep will not produce blooms. 

When planting multiple peony roots, space them .91 m. to 1.21 m. apart.  Dig a hole about 46 cm wide by 46 cm. deep.  Mix your soil amendment into the soil from the hole.  Add a cup of bonemeal to the backfill soil and mix it in.  Bonemeal should never directly touch the tuber.

Place the tuber on top of a hill of soil in the hole.  The ‘eyes’ should face upward and be only 5 cm. below the soil surface.   Backfill with the amended soil making sure the tuber does not shift deeper than 5 cm.  Firm the backfill soil gently around the root as you fill it back in around the root.  Water thoroughly.

Peonies usually need support.  Make sure the peony ring you use is strong and place it in spring well before the shoots emerge. 

Fertilize a peony every few years.  A compost amended soil at planting time is enough.  When you do fertilize make sure it is done after the blooms fade and deadheading is complete. Place compost or well rotted manure around the root zone of the peony.  Do not put it too close to the crown of the plant. 

The leaves of peonies turn gold or purple-red in fall. Once the plant leaves have browned, prune back all the stems to soil level.  Mulching should only be done before the winter of the first year and remove this mulch in spring. 

If you purchase a container grown peony, do not plant it any deeper than it is in the pot.


Ants are attracted to peony buds because of the sweet nectar on the buds.  They will attack the bad pests on the buds that may be there as well.  They do no harm, so avoid spraying.


Peonies are toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and livestock animals. 

Peonies are the 12 - year wedding anniversary flower.  They are symbols of a happy marriage and a happy life.

Peonies make a beautiful cut flower bouquet.  They will last a week or more in a vase.

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