Almost no garden perennial rivals the peony. It's truly a wonderful plant. There's nothing like the smell of these beauties in late spring; and even after the flowers are done, the leaves lend a stature to the garden.
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Two types of peonies are generally grown in the home landscape, Paeonia hybrids, or garden peony, and Paeonia suffruticosa, or tree peony.
This article will explain how to care for the first type, paeonia hybrids.
According to Hope Weber of the Ohio Extension service, “Peonies are classified according to flower form. All peonies have five or more large outer petals called guard petals and a center of stamens or modified stamens. Single forms have centers of pollen-bearing stamens. Centers of semi-double forms consist of broad petals intermingled with pollen-bearing stamens. Double types have dense centers of only broad petals (transformed stamens). The anemone form, often included in the semi-double category, may have more than one row of guard petals encircling a center of thin, petal-like structures. Japanese types are similar to anemones but have staminodes (stamens that do not produce pollen) in their centers. Flowering usually lasts one week in late spring to early summer. By selecting and planting early, mid- and late-season bloomers, flowering may be extended for six weeks. Flower color may be any except blue.
Peonies grow from two to four feet in height. Support is often required for tall, double hybrids. Peonies thrive in sunny locations and well-drained soils, tolerating a wide range of soil types. Best growth is in soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, deep and rich in organic matter. They are hardy from zone 8 to zone 2 with some exceptions. In cold climates, those with an average minimum temperature below -20 degrees F, winter mulching is necessary if there is little or no snow cover. Because winter chilling is required for dormancy, peonies do not perform well in subtropical areas. Planting, transplanting and dividing peonies are best done in early fall but may be done in spring as soon as soils are workable. Each plant requires an area about three feet in diameter. Dig a generous hole, large enough to accommodate the roots, and incorporate aged organic matter in the bottom. Place the peony in the prepared hole so that the eyes (small, red-colored buds) are one to two inches below the soil's surface. Backfill and water well.
Peonies may be left undisturbed for many years. A decline in flower production usually indicates overcrowding and the need for division. Carefully lift the clump and wash away the soil to expose the eyes. Using a clean, sharp tool, divide the clump into sections, each with three to five eyes and good roots. Replant immediately.”
Peonies have few pests but can get some wilts and fungus. If you notice a problem with your plant and you are sure it is a disease and not merely a water or other temporary issue it is best to destroy the plant. Also, never replant peony in the same spot you had a diseased plant.
Peonies come in scores of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some will even have double blooms. There is surely a peony for you in your garden.
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