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Planting Bare Root Peonies

Peonies are long lived perennials that can last a life time, generally without the need to be divided. A newly planted peony will usually spent one or two growing seasons developing a strong root system. You'll get a small plant the first spring; a bigger plant the second spring; and then greatness the third spring. During their initially growing years, they may or may not produce flowers, but once theres a substantial root ball to fuel flower production, you will get more and more blossoms each year.

Here's some tips about how to plant your peony roots for the best success.

Where to Plant

Choose a site with well-drained soil away from the competing roots of trees and shrubs. Each plant will grow to about 3 feet wide x 4 feet tall, so give each plant an area about three feet in diameter. It's best to avoid windy areas or provide a windbreak, as peony stems are vulnerable to breakage when heavy with buds and flowers. Pick a spot that will get at least one half day of sun - full sun is fabulous. A bit of shade can produce deeper colors in peony flowers, but too much shade generates fewer flowers per bush. With peonies, it's best to think sun.

How to Plant

Dig a planting hole about 12 inches and 12 inches deep. Mix several shovels of compost or well-rotted manure into the bottom of the hole, a bit of bonemeal is also good. (If you want to get technical and your soil is acidic, you can also mix in about a cup of ground limestone. Peonies like a pH of between 6 and 7.)

Plant the peony. Have a good look at your peony root. You may see little pink dots on your roots – these are the eyes (sort of like eyes on a potato) – or growing points. This is where the growth is going to develop in the springtime, the eyes can be smaller or bigger, depending on the variety of the peony you have – different varieties grow differently. Oftentimes, especially in the fall, these eyes are dormant and it's hard to tell which way should be up. If you can't seem to decipher which way should be up and which way should be down, don't fret too much - lay the root horizontally along the soil and the plant will naturally right itself. (Nature is incredible!)

When you go to plant your peony root, you will want to have these eyes only 1 - 2 inches below the surface of the soil. This is one time where paying attention to plant depth is really important. If you plant the division too deeply, it may prevent flowering. Once you've positioned the peony in the hole, fill the soil carefully but firmly around the roots. Make sure there are no air spaces that could allow the plant to settle too deeply. There’s no need to water unless you don’t expect any rainfall before winter (which isn't a problem out here on the west coast).

Label Your Plant

Mark where you have planted your peonies. If you have lots of plants in a bed, it can be tough to remember where everything is! Your peony may not bloom its first year, but by the third year it should reach top form and you will be enjoying blooms for many, many years to come!


~ Melissa


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