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Peonies: An Underutilized Perennial


Do you want to plant flowers that are both pretty and fragrant? Then think peonies. 

I always link together Memorial Day and peonies.  This year the peony bloom is later but just as spectacular.   Herbaceous peonies that die to the ground every fall are one of the easiest, long lived perennials to grow.

Peonies are grown from root divisions or tubers.  Fall is the best time to divide the plants.  Dig around the plant and down at least a foot.  Lift the plant and wash the soil off the roots.  Cut the root into sections with three or more eyes or growing points.  Replant the root divisions so the eyes are an inch below the soil surface.  Planting too deeply causes very small, weak flowers or no flowers at all.

How to Care for Peonies

Peonies prefer full sun to partial shade.  They’ll grow in almost any soil.  Because they are long lived, prepare the soil deeply with compost.  Depending on variety, peonies grow from a foot to three feet tall and wide.  Once established, peonies are cold and drought tolerant.  They’ll do well at elevations above 8,500 feet.  The higher the elevation the later peonies bloom. 

As soon as peonies start to grow in the spring they need support.  Horizontal wire cages that can move up as the plant grows are best.  Support is especially important for double flowering varieties.  The blooms are so heavy they fall to the ground without support.  Some folks disbud peonies for larger, longer blooms.  Flowers usually come out in threes.  Removing the two side buds makes the flowering period longer.

Peony flowers bloom in hues of white, pink, red and speckles of these colors.  There is even a yellow flower variety.  New hybrids are available every year.  Use a peony with cut leaves to border a bed.  Use larger varieties as accent or focal plants. 


Japanese or anemone peonies have large, showy, single flowers.  The Japanese types come in a spectrum of beautiful pastel colors.   They’re as hardy and durable as other herbaceous peonies.  Fern-Leaf peonies add delicate texture to the cutting garden.

Where to Plant

Peonies are fragrant.  They’re a must in the cut flower garden.  Peonies can be borders or accents throughout the garden.  They’re easy to grow and pretty much care free.   Peonies have eye catching blooms in May and early June. 


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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