Peony, Perennials Guide to Planting Flowers

Perennial Flower Information

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Peonies have captivated the
world. The “old red Piney,” that charming, old-fashioned
flower, is hardly as popular as it was in days now past,
because the new, lovely and more delicately tinted varieties,
which have been recently introduced, are crowding their
old relative into the background. Peonies in great masses
are now found growing around the small cottage out in
the village or country, along roads and woodland paths,
in gardens throughout the large cities and around the
mansions of the wealthy where they seem to have truly
assumed that aristocratic yet charming air so in keeping
with the occasion. There is no other hardy flowering
plant which grows in the Northern States and endures
the Northern Winters as does the Peony. Massive without
being coarse, fragrant without being pungent, grand
without being gaudy, various in form and color, beyond
the possibility of being successfully superseded, they
stand in the first rank of hardy flowers.

The genus Paeonia is divided
into two sub-heads, the Shrubby or Tree Peonies and
the Herbaceous.

Peonies are grown both for
their flowers and beautiful foliage. From the time the
red shoots first appear early in Spring, when the flowers
in an almost endless number of colors are massed on
the bushes, and when the glossy green foliage takes
on the autumnal tints of vivid carmine, purple, amethyst
and orange, Peonies are in great demand. The average
height is from 2 feet to 4 feet, each plant spreading
out to almost the same distance. The flowers are borne
either singly or in groups of two or three. There are
single blooms very much like a wild Rose, except in
size; semi-double flowers and double ones which are
a round mass of uneven petals. Some of the flowers are
so large and heavy that it often becomes necessary to
prop them up so that the Spring rains will not dash
them into the mud. The leaves are smooth, dark, glossy
and divided. The colors of the flowers range from purest
white with a mass of golden stamens in the center through
all the shades of pink to the darkest of reds and purples.
There are also some pleasing yellow varieties. Many
of the newer varieties are delicately rose-scented which
makes them very much more valuable because the offensive
odor of the early red “Piney” has been done away with.
Some of the varieties do not last very long, but if
early and late varieties are planted, a succession of
bloom can be had which will last for six or seven weeks.
The greater majority of them are in bloom from about
the middle of May on through June. The earlier blooming
varieties combine well with many bulbs, especially Daffodils.
Narcissi, Scillas, Gladioli and Lilies are very charming
when planted in among the Peonies, while Michaelmas
Daisies, Delphiniums, Gaillardias and Lobelias make
a very suitable background.

UTILIZE. Peonies can be used
in almost any position in any garden. These plants are
equally at home planted as single specimens on the lawn,
in tall grass, in the woods, or planted in beds and
borders with other perennials and bulbous plants, or
when massed by themselves. Peonies can be planted along
woodland paths, at the ends and edges of shrubbery groups,
at the bases of stone walls, or along drives and walks.
They are at home in almost any situation, naturalizing
as readily in woodland copses as in formal gardens.
They make a rather dense growth and are often used in
place of low hedges.

As for cut flowers they are
absolutely invaluable. If they are cut just as the bud
is about to open and are placed in a cool room, the
blooms will last many days. Since the newer varieties
are sweetly scented, the flowers are now used to a greater
extent in homes in vases, bowls and baskets. The stems
are long, stiff and are splendid to use for decorative
purposes for large functions where large flowers of
rich_ coloring are needed.

GENERAL. Peonies abundantly
repay good care and nourishment and do not require a
great deal of care after they are once established.

Types of Peonies.

S.-Single, showing (g), guard
petals; (s), stamens; (c), carpels or lobes of pistil.
J.-Japanese type; stamens wider than in single.
B.-Bomb type. The stamens become narrow petals, called
SD.-Semi-double. Many petaloides are quite wide and
are mixed among the stamens.
C.-Crown. The stamens are wider and petal-like. The
carpets, which before have remained unchanged, are now
R.-Rose. In this type there is an entire transformation
of the bloom.

Preparation of the soil
is one of the biggest factors in growing healthy plants.
They are heavy feeders and require a deeply prepared
soil. The best soil is a heavy loam, one which is not
too heavy with clay nor too light with sand. Stiff yellow
clay, a sour soil or an abundance of fresh manure in
the soil hinder the proper growth of the roots and plant.
The bed should be prepared very deeply, the soil being
mixed with well-rotted cow manure. Each plant should
be given a space 3 feet in diameter for its development.
The soil should be retentive of moisture, yet well drained,
for the plants rot out if the ground is so low that
the water will stand in pools around the plant during
the Winter. The manure should not be mixed among the
roots, but clean soil should be next to the roots and
then the manure. The roots should be set in the soil
so that the top eye is not more than 2 inches or 3 inches
from the surface.

When the plants have finished
blooming in the Summer, work must be begun to insure
a good next year’s crop. Weeds should be kept down all
during the Summer, for they rob the soil of its richness.
The first Winter the roots are loose in the soil and
will need a good coating of manure as a mulch applied
after the ground is thoroughly frozen. This will prevent
the roots from being heaved out of the ground, due to
alternate freezing and thawing. The manure should not
be allowed to remain about the plants in the Summer
but worked into the soil. Diseases are spread by the
presence of manure.

When once planted, Peonies
should be left alone for a number of years, except for
dividing and replanting, which should be done every
eight or ten years. It has been said that Peonies fade
and loose their colors so readily. The delicate pink
varieties fade to a white. This can be remedied by either
cutting the stems when the bud is about to open, or
by erecting a cheesecloth screen over the plants. This
prevents the hot sunlight from bleaching out the color.

Although Peonies are free
from insects, they are very subject to a pernicious
bud rot. Many Peonies which do not seem able to mature
their buds are affected with this disease. It can be
prevented by avoiding manure about the crowns of the
plants and by spraying weekly from the first signs of
Spring until sometime in May. Bordeaux Mixture is the
proper spray to use. Many Peonies have two, three or
more buds to a single stem. If it is a single variety
they should be left as they are because the spray effect
of flowers produced is very attractive. But with the
large double sorts, all except the largest center bud
(terminal) should be removed. This disbudding throws
all the strength and food into one flower, which is
larger, finer and better in color. The buds should be
removed when small.

PROPAGATION. Peonies are
usually propagated by division of the clumps, but it
is a slow process, taking from three to five years for
characteristic blooms to appear. The tubers or roots
resemble those of Rhubarb. The best time to divide them
is during September or October. However, they may be
divided and transplanted any time from the middle of
August until the ground freezes in the Fall. If the
plants are well established they will improve every
year. Peonies may be propagated by seeds which are sown
as soon as they are ripe in coldframes where they should
be kept for a year before transplanting. The seed should
never be allowed to become throughly dry, for when once
thoroughly dried it may take two years or longer for
the seeds to germinate. The first blooms are never typical
of the plants; it takes from four to eight years to
produce characteristic blooms. One must remember that
growing Peonies from seed is interesting, not practical

on 75+ Perennials

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One Comment

    Martha Thompson

    Recently, I heard over the tv that peonies sometimes needs watering with a mixture of Epsom salt with water to change the color of the flower. I need to know how to make the mixture so as not to harm the plant. Please advise how to mix this.


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