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Features Of Growing Herbaceous Peonies

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Part 1. Herbaceous peonies - favorites for all times
Part 2. Features of growing herbaceous peonies

The herbaceous peonies, even the best varieties, are some of the most unpretentious and persistent beautiful flowering perennials. Even inexperienced gardeners can easily grow them, and the requirements to the conditions of peonies growing are quite modest.

Features of growing herbaceous peonies
Lactiferous peony in the garden

Content of the second part:

  • Conditions required by herbaceous peonies
  • Planning of herbaceous peonies
  • Humidity and watering requirements
  • Rejuvenation, Pruning and tying of bushes
  • Feeding for herbaceous peonies
  • Wintering of herbaceous peonies
  • Pest and disease control
  • Propagation of herbaceous peonies

Conditions, needed by herbaceous peonies

The main thing to look for when choosing a place to plant a herbaceous peony is a sufficient amount of light. All herbaceous peonies are sun-loving plants, but can tolerate a little shading at noon. Lack of light affects the number and quality of flowers, so it is better to place herbaceous peonies in well-lit places. In the shade these perennials do not bloom at all, but they always retain the attractiveness of the bush.

The herbaceous peonies like sheltered and warm places. New varieties have high shoot resistance, do not droop under the weight of inflorescences, but even they should be placed on sites protected from active draughts. Remember that just like roses, peonies need free air circulation around the shrubs. Peonies are placed away from large plants, buildings, objects of small architecture - so that plants grow and breathe freely.

The soil for peonies is better to choose from among fertile and quality substrates. Loams - loose, fertile, fresh (or at least not too dry) - are best for these perennials. Herbaceous peonies prefer slightly alkaline or neutral reaction (optimal pH value is from 6 to 6.5).

The plants are able to put up with slightly acidic, but not extremely acidic soil, the reaction of which can be corrected beforehand by introducing lime. Peonies do not tolerate dampness, they will not work in areas with a high groundwater table, lowlands, places where there is a risk of stagnant water in the spring. Compacted soils are not suitable for this perennial.

Planning herbaceous peonies

Preliminary soil preparation is carried out a few weeks or a month before planting seedlings. On quality fertile soil for peonies deep digging and making organic fertilizers into the soil is enough (plants do not like manure, so compost or leaf humus is added to the soil). But usually the soil for planting peonies should be qualitatively improved.

There are many options for preparing earth mixture, each of which provides peonies with a sufficient level of nutrition and "correct" soil texture:

  1. The soil taken out of the planting holes is mixed in equal proportion with compost, peat and sand, supplementing them with a standard recommended by the manufacturer portion of full mineral or phosphorous-potassium fertilizers, handful of wood ash. If necessary, correct the texture of the soil by adding clay or sand.
  2. The planting holes are filled with different soil mixtures: on half or two-thirds of the height in the planting hole pour a mixture of garden soil with sand, peat, mulch, taken in equal quantities, adding to them to increase the nutritional value of double superphosphate (200-250 g, can be replaced by twice the amount of bone meal), iron sulfate (enough a tablespoon per planting hole), wood ash (several handfuls or 3-4 cups) and potassium carbonate (half a tablespoon). The top of the planting hole is filled with ordinary garden soil without impurities.
  3. The planting hole is filled over drainage with a layer of mixture of compost, humus and double portion of mineral fertilizers of 20-30 cm, and for planting and backfilling planting holes use ordinary soil in which organic fertilizers are added.

Bearing in mind the size of the rhizome and the plant's dislike for root injuries, planting pits for herbaceous peonies are dug as well as for planting large tree and shrubs - about 60-70 cm in width and depth. On wet soils or in places where there is a risk of water stagnation, a high layer of coarse drainage (at least 20 cm) is placed at the bottom of the planting pits.

Fill the planting holes with the selected mixtures, allowing them to compact and settle before planting. If the preliminary preparation was not carried out in time, it is necessary to pour and tamp the layers when filling the planting holes to avoid shrinkage of soil during planting.

The terms of planting for peonies are limited because of the rather early period of flowering and dying off of above-ground parts for the winter. Plants are transplanted only after blossoming and maturing of buds and fruits, in early autumn (first and second decade of September) or at the end of August. Only such a distance allows bushes to develop freely and not to curve, form them dense, ornate and symmetrical.

Pionts do not like transplanting, so the observance of caution, careful handling of the roots when planting new bushes is the key to their health and longevity. Plants are installed on a sandy cushion so that after the soil shrinkage, it was slightly buried, focusing on the buds: they should be located 3-5 cm below the level of the ground. A deeper burial will lead to both the absence of flowering and health problems of the plant, while a higher planting will increase the risk of frost.

Usually the plant is installed at soil level or slightly higher, which after filling the holes with soil, watering and shrinkage allows you to get the desired depth. When planting, the soil is carefully poured and manually compacted, so that no voids are left between the roots.

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Finish planting of peonies with traditional abundant watering. With the onset of stable frosts the plants must be mulched for the winter.

Features of growing herbaceous peonies
The rhizome of an adult peony bush. © Adriana

Moisture requirements and watering

The herbaceous peonies are quite stable and unpretentious, requiring minimal watering during the flowering period.

  1. at the end of June watering allows peonies to form quality buds of renewal;
  2. at the end of August watering stimulates accumulation of strong adventitious roots. Watering at the stage of budding and flowering, as well as during the active growth of leaves, allows you to get more spectacular and lushly flowering bushes. Watering can be done only during droughts, compensating the lack of natural rainfall. After fading the peonies can not be watered, but these additional procedures allow to keep the attractive greenery longer. The main thing is not to overdo it.

When doing any watering for herbaceous peonies, it is important to make sure that the soil is soaked to the full depth of the roots. Typically, you should use 2-3 buckets of water per bush rather than the standard 10 liters. Peonies are watered only in the evening, on days with high night temperatures, not with cold water. It is possible to simplify watering by additionally laying communications for "point" watering under the root or by creating watering holes.

Features of growing herbaceous peonies
Support to keep the peony bush from falling apart. © sherisilver

Rejuvenation, pruning and tying bushes

The herbaceous peonies are long-lived, can please for decades, but because of thickening and overgrowth, their flowering quality with age tends to decline, it begins to suffer on bushes over 7-10 years. It is better to divide herbaceous peonies regularly, with a frequency of 1 every 5-8 years. Separation of bushes is carried out only at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn.

The peony varieties with unstable shoots, and also bushes growing in open areas, with the beginning of flowering under the weight of heads without timely gartering, quickly fall apart, lose their attractiveness. Luxurious flowers, lying on the soil - a sight not of the most pleasant. Therefore, at the beginning of flower stalks growth and at the stage of budding, peonies are tied so as to prevent branches from bending, kinking and breaking.

There are special supports that are installed on the bush, but peonies can be tied to simple pegs installed on the perimeter of the bush, encircling the bush with soft twine or cords in a circle during the budding stage and raising the circle as flowers blossom and flower stalks grow.

Flower removal in peonies is carried out differently, depending on whether the flowers are cut for bunches or left on the bush to reveal full ornamental value:

  1. Bunches are cut before they open, after coloring of outer petals in characteristic for a variety - in simple and semi-major varieties, or after opening, bending of lower petals - in dense-major varieties. In any herbaceous peony, no more than half of all flowers can be removed, because cutting all shoots leads to disruption of the process of renewing buds establishment. Flower stems up to 40 cm long are cut off, making sure to leave a shoot with 2-3 leaves in the bush. Peonies are cut early in the morning, only on weathery days, immediately putting the flowers in water and cool. For bouquets, the cuts are renewed under water.
  2. For larger and better quality flowers, the side buds can be removed, leaving only the central one on each shoot.
  3. Withering flowers are cut off after the petals begin to drop. Do not leave wilted flowers on the bush, as this greatly increases the risk of spreading diseases and infecting the plant. If you want to allow the seeds to mature, leave 1 or 2 of the first flowers on the bush, removing the rest. Cut off the flower stalks not to the base, but leaving the foliated part of the shoots to form buds.
  4. New peony bushes in the first two years after planting are not desirable to allow flowering to form a strong rhizome and strong buds of renewal.

Pre-winter pruning of peony - a measure of obligation. But it should not be done too early. Pruning peony bushes is better postponed until the onset of persistent frosts. In plants remove all above-ground parts, leaving stumps 3-4 cm above the buds of renewal, almost at soil level. All cut parts of herbaceous peonies are burned, not left on the plot and not used for composting. The remains of the shrub should preferably be covered with wood ash to prevent the spread of disease.

Feeding for herbaceous peonies

For the plant to enjoy more flowers, to fully manifest its varietal properties, the level of nutrients in the soil should be regularly replenished. Herbaceous peonies are fed in a standard way for all beautiful flowering plants, applying three fertilizers during a season:

  1. At the beginning of active growth. For the first feeding it is preferable to use nitrogen fertilizers to stimulate rapid growth of shoots and leaves. For the second feeding use full mineral fertilizers in standard amounts.
  2. At the peak of flowering. This fertilization can be replaced by two treatments - at the beginning of the blossoming of the first flowers and at the end of flowering. For these fertilizations it is preferable to use phosphorus-potassium fertilizers.

If herbaceous peonies are grown for cutting or cultivars with unknown winter-hardiness, instead of classic fertilization you can make fertilization at the beginning of growth with nitrogen or complete fertilizers, in June - with organic or complete mineral fertilizers and in September - with potassium-phosphorus fertilizers.

The beauty of inflorescences and the general state of plants are positively influenced by spraying with growth regulators and foliar feeding. Such procedures shall be carried out only in summer and not more than 1 time per month. Young plants respond particularly well to foliar feedings.

In addition to basic care procedures, several other agronomic techniques should be included in the care of herbaceous peonies:

  1. mulching the soil, with mandatory renewal of the mulch layer in the spring (it is desirable to use organic fertilizers or a mixture of soil and organic matter in a layer up to 10 cm);
  2. weeding, regular removal of weeds;
  3. loosening the soil to maintain its water permeability, which is advisable after every watering or heavy precipitation.
Features of growing herbaceous peonies
A young herbaceous peony bush. © proflowers

Wintering herbaceous peonies

Although garden peonies are considered winter-hardy plants, you should not forget that their buds of renewal are high and not protected by a sufficient layer of soil. Peonies winter well only under snow, so it is better to take measures in time and create a light cover that guarantees successful wintering even in snowless periods.

For peonies are very dangerous blowing, so leaves or straw for covering are not used. It is best to create a thick layer of peat or compost mulch (minimum - 5-7 cm) over the cut bushes for the winter. But such a cover is considered mandatory only for young and varietal peonies, whose acclimatization (in the past) is unknown. Plants bought in local nurseries at an adult age can not be covered at all.

In spring it is not necessary to hurry to remove the mulch layer: cover only after the appearance of reddish sprouts and the beginning of the development of shoots. The procedure of removing the cover should be carried out carefully, because the young sprouts are very fragile. After removing the cover the soil around the bush must be loosened.

Features of growing herbaceous peonies
Trimming peonies for winter. © Cheryl

Pest and disease control

The herbaceous peonies are particularly prone to grey rot, which is considered the main cause of loss of these herbaceous perennials. The slightest deviation in soil characteristics toward compaction, acidic reaction, or excessive nitrogen dramatically increases the risk of infestation of the shrubs. But besides gray rot, common diseases of garden plants - from spot disease to stem and root rot, powdery mildew and even rust - are not uncommon on herbaceous peonies.

For unstable varieties of herbaceous peonies, the most reliable way to avoid problems is timely and regular prevention. An annual treatment with a solution of copper sulfate (against rust - bodrosa mixture, against powdery mildew - colloidal sulfur) or a systemic fungicide is enough to protect plants from infection. Fighting on infested bushes is a long process and not always successful. Systemic fungicide treatments and preventive treatments in early spring later on are necessary to cope.

Pests on herbaceous peonies are less common. But aphids, mites and thrips can cause as much damage as diseases. It is better to control insect pests with systemic insecticides with the frequency and concentration recommended by the manufacturer.

Features of growing herbaceous peonies
Separation of the herbaceous peony bush. © Adriana

Propagation of herbaceous peonies

Like any other peonies, herbaceous peony varieties can be propagated by both seed and vegetative methods.

The easiest way to obtain offspring of herbaceous peonies that fully retain all characteristics of the original plant is by bush rejuvenation and planned division. Only herbaceous peonies that develop at least 7 complete shoots and have had full flowering for several years can be divided. The optimum time for dividing coincides with the time of planting, from the second half of August to the end of September. Before digging it up, all shoots should be trimmed, leaving not very short stubs, about 15 cm long, on all stems. The procedure itself is slightly complicated by the fragility of the peony root system:

  1. Crop up very carefully, with a large root ball, trying not to damage young and old roots. The best way to take out the bush is first to dig around a wide radius, and then to remove a very large clod of soil. Depending on the condition of the soil, it is gently shaken off or washed away with a gentle stream of water, exposing the rhizome for inspection. After removing the main soil, the bush is carefully examined and left to dry out for a few hours.
  2. The dried bush is divided with a sharp knife or other sharp tool so that at least 2-3 shoots, 3 buds of renewal and strong new roots remain in each part (optimal size of the separated rhizome is about 10-15 cm). Both large and small dividers, as well as whole shrubs, do not root well and require careful care.
  3. Each division is inspected, removing the damaged parts of the roots. All cuts and breaks on the plant must be treated with ashes or special preparations for wound treatment. Before planting, it is better to soak plants in solutions of fungicides, and then - rooting stimulants, but such treatment is not considered mandatory. Soaking is carried out before pruning.
  4. Propagation of divisions of herbaceous peonies is carried out by the same rules as the planting of peonies in general. Plants divided at the end of summer take root well and grow actively, but they will flower only in the second or third year after transplanting (even if bushes produce flowers in the first or second year, it is better not to allow them to flower, so that already in the third year to get larger and more abundant flowers).

The herbaceous peonies are also propagated by another vegetative method - by root cuttings or separate stems with a bud and roots. From the shrubs separate small pieces of rhizome with one dormant bud at the base of a single shoot. It is better to carry out this procedure not in early autumn, but in July, immediately shortening the shoot to 2 - 3 leaves.

Root seedlings as usual cuttings on seedling beds (without a hood, but with constant care). The plants are covered with a thick layer of mulch for the winter, and then the peonies are reared for several years, obtaining flowering plants only on the fifth year after rooting.

Seed multiplication is a method used only in the selection of herbaceous peonies and very rarely used in private gardens (unlike their tree-shaped counterparts and species plants). But if you want to try your hand at breeding new peonies, it is better to sow under the winter. Peonies will not bloom until the fourth or fifth year.

First part of the material: Herbaceous peonies - favorites for all time

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