The Q&A Archives: Peony Care

Question: Our soil is alkaline. I bought two of your peonies (Kansas double) and I would like to know what I should use when planting in my garden i.e. what soil supplements should I use?
I have two other peonies in the garden, as a shade plant, but in the heat of summer the leaves turn brown and eventually dies off, only to re-emerge next spring. I think I need to water it more often, would this be the case? Thanks for your advice which I eagerly await.

Answer: Peonies prefer full sunshine and may not flower well in a partly shady area. They like most soils, but perform best when you first prepare the soil by digging down at least 1 1/2 feet and amending the soil with aged-manure or compost. This will give the roots the rich, loose soil they crave and will result in better top growth and abundant flowers. Peonies are heavy feeders, so you can feed your plants in the spring with a high-phosphate fertilizer, such as bone meal, and in midsummer with a balanced fertilizer, such as a 5-5-5. The phosphorus helps promote flowering and the balanced fertilizer supplements overall growth.
Plant the roots in the fall, making sure that the buds are no more than about two inches below the soil surface. If you plant them deeper, they may fail to bloom. Add a support stake to the hole while you're planting so you can tie the stems as they grow. (Sometimes the flowers get so heavy they pull the stems down.) Peony clumps should be divided only when absolutely necessary because they resent being disturbed once they become established. Divide in the fall, after the foliage dies down. Peonies require regular summer watering; make sure that the entire rootmass is thoroughly saturated when you water each week.

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