The peony is a popular choice to accentuate a flowerbed or to exhibit as a specimen plant, as its foliage remains attractive long after the flowers are spent. While planting peonies correctly is not arduous, it does require thoughtful planning and attention to detail.
Peonies grow well in Zones 3 – 8, although with care you can successfully cultivate some varieties in Zones 2 and 9. They require a sunny location, with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to achieve peak flowering capacity. The soil should be rich with organic compost, and have excellent drainage. Nothing is more detrimental to peonies than standing water, because the roots will quickly start to rot. Excessive mulch will also have the same deleterious effect.
The best time of year to plant peonies is in the early fall. This gives the plant time to grow feeder roots before winter dormancy, which allows a jump-start the following spring.
How to Plant
Whether you are planting bare root peonies from a grower, or a clump from a division, make sure the tuberous roots look healthy and the root crown has at least three eyes or buds on top. Dig a hole large enough for the root configuration to sit easily, and generously fill in with organic compost and soil. The eyes should be covered no more than 2 inches – deeper than that will possibly prevent the peony from flowering.
In the early spring, as soon as the plant starts to appear, four stakes should be placed outside on the perimeter, with twine crisscrossed between them, supporting the stems and leaves. This will prevent the heavy flowers from being dashed to the ground by the first heavy rainfall.