When it comes to flamboyant flowers, few plants can beat the hardy, deciduous peony.
There are three types of peony: herbaceous types, which die back to ground level every winter; tree peonies, which are taller and more woody and keep their frame throughout winter (they’re small shrubs and not trees); and intersectional hybrids, which are a cross between tree and herbaceous types (these are not so readily available).
How to grow peonies
All peonies require a moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Provide support for varieties with large flowers. Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division in autumn, while tree peonies are better propagated by layering.
Plant peonies in a rich but well-drained soil in a position of full sun. Avoid planting these often expensive plants in a waterlogged soil. The majority of herbaceous peonies prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.
Tree peonies need a sheltered position and are more tolerant of acid soils.
In this short video guide, the experts at Binny Plants share their top tips for growing peonies, including where to plant them and how deep to plant them.
How to plant peonies
Bare-root peony plants should be planted as soon as they arrive. Peonies are best planted in autumn or spring. Ensure you don’t plant them too deeply, as this will yield poor results. Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting. Apply a balanced fertiliser in spring.
Avoid overwatering newly planted peonies as this is a common cause of plant failure.
As peony flowers are so heavy, you will need to use a plant support.
In this video guide, Monty Don show’s how to plant a herbaceous peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and taller tree peonies. He explains how planting depth is crucial with peonies – and how to get it right.
Herbaceous peonies should be cut back hard in autumn to ground level. Tree peonies do not need pruning. All you need to do is remove the faded seed heads in autumn. Don’t be tempted to pick off the faded foliage in autumn – let it fall off naturally. Avoid pruning tree peonies hard back as they are often grafted onto herbaceous peonies.
When weeding borders try to avoid stepping on the newly forming buds of the herbaceous types.
Sometimes peonies form suckers around the base of the plant.