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Peony Bush Care in the Garden | Beginners Guide

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

The peony bush is one of my favorite flowering plants and I knew it had to be incorporated into our backyard garden design plans at our new home. Today I am sharing my tips on peony bush care and frequently asked questions on how to maintain them in our garden.

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What is a peony?

A peony (pronounced pee-o-nee) is a hardy perennial plant that grows big, fluffy flowers in a variety of pink, purple and white colors. Its scientific name is ‘paeonia’ and has three different varieties: herbacious, tree, and itoh.

I am most familiar with the herbacious type of peony that can get floppy as the flowers bloom. My friend planted tree peonies and I can’t wait to add them somewhere in our garden. The stems of this type of peony are more sturdy so they stand straight without support (see image below).

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

We started our backyard garden at the beginning of the pandemic (2020) and had to get creative with finding plants to add in the beginning months (check out all of my English garden design plans and DIY projects to create the garden of my dreams). It was our first spring in our new home and we made all kinds of plant discoveries in the new yard. I found one peony bush peeking out from our AC unit and dug it up to transplant into the garden.

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

That same first spring in our house, my grandmother brought over some plants from her garden to share, including a piece of my great-grandmother’s peony bush. Just like our other peony plant, it has taken about 3 years to sprout some flowers and it was well worth the wait! I love that a have a little piece of my great-grandmother’s garden growing in our backyard.

FAQs on Peony Bush Care and Maintenance

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

Where is the best place to plant a peony bush?

Peony bushes do well in hardiness zones 2-8, which is most areas in the US. I recommend looking into the hardiness zone where you live to see if it is compatible with peony plants. Peonies also prefer full sun (up to 8 hours) and not shaded areas.

How much space do peonies need?

To allow for air circulation and growth, plant peonies about 3-4 feet apart. If you are buying your peony shrub from a nursery, be sure to check the care instructions included with the plant.

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

Do peony bushes require a lot of water?

Because the peony bush is a native perennial to my location (NW Ohio), it doesn’t require extensive care to keep it alive. Native plants evolved to naturally do well in specific regions based on climate, soil, and average rainfall, making them easy to care for. We water the garden every 1-2 days and the peonies thrive.

Should you mulch around peonies?

Yes. Every May, fresh mulch is laid in the garden to keep moisture in the soil when plants are watered or it rains. 

Are peonies difficult to grow?

In my experience, no. I have literally found peony bushes growing in odd locations and transplanted them with no issues. If your peony bushes have good soil, enough sunlight, space, and water, they should do just fine.

Can I transplant peony bushes?

Absolutely! When I transplanted our bushes to their new home in the English garden, added some compost to the bottom of the hole, filled it with water, and then re-planted each bush. This pretty, white bloom is from the peony bush I transplanted from under our AC unit.

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

Can you divide a peony bush?

Yes! As peony shrubs continue to grow, you can absolutely split them and share them with friends or plant them in another area of your yard. When dividing a plant, dig up the entire root ball and use a spade shovel or sharp knife to split it up. The ideal time to split peony shrubs is in either the fall or springtime.

What month is best to plant peonies?

It is best to plant a peony bush in the fall or early spring. 

How do you keep peony bushes from falling over?

We use tomato cages to prevent the top-heavy stems from flopping onto the ground. 

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

You can also easily find peony plant supports online or at your local hardware store.

Should peonies be near a house?

I wouldn’t plant peonies too close to your home because they attract ants. Plant your peonies a safe distance from your house to avoid these pests from entering your home. We actually border the entire base of our home with small rocks in all of our flower beds. Another benefit of the rock border is less dirt and mulch spray against the house with heavy rains.

Do peonies come back every year?

Yes, perennial plants go dormant in the winter and come back every year in the spring/summer.

How many years does it take for peonies to bloom?

It takes 2-3 years to begin seeing blooms on a peony bush. The blooms are gorgeous in the garden and when they are cut for floral arrangements inside the home.

Peony bush care and building a low maintentance garden for beginners | Building Bluebird

When should peonies be cut back?

We cut our peony bushes back in the fall, I usually cut ours back in September or October. I use simple garden shears to cut back our plants each fall.

Should peonies be deadheaded?

I personally deadhead my peonies for two reasons. First, I think it looks better aesthetically. Second, it helps the plant to grow by putting resources toward other parts of the plant. I leave the green leafy part of the plant, which absorbs sunlight.

*Check out my list of the best gardening tools for beginners.

What is the lifespan of a peony bush?

Peonies have a very long life span and grow for decades. The peony plant that was my great grandmothers is at least 40 years old.

How do you get peonies to bloom all summer?

Most peony plants bloom in late spring and early summer. The best way to get peony plants to bloom all summer is by planting a variety of peonies with different bloom times.

What does a peony symbolize?

The peony flower is said to symbolize love, honor, happiness, wealth, romance, and beauty.

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