The Q&A Archives: Fern Peony & Roses

Question: I would like to know how deep to plant Fern Peonies. I would also like to know how much to water it needs and how often to water. Does it need fertalizer? How much and how often? And is there anything special I need to do with it in the seasons (we have fall, winter, spring, and summer). And does it need full sun?

I would also like to know about roses. I would like to start one by a seed but do roses give off seeds? Is there any such thing as a rose seed? If there isn't is there any way I can get anything from another rose to start a new one?

Sam Falk

P.S., Thank You for you help!

Answer: Roses can be grown from seed, but it's an involved process. You'll have better success by taking a stem cutting. First find a healthy stem tip that's the right age and size. (A good one will snap when you try to break it off.) Take stem tip with six sets of leaves on it. Remove the two bottom sets of leaves and cut off the tip just below the second set of leaves from the top. (Now you have a short piece with just two sets of leaves on it -- keep it right side up.) Some gardeners will use a rooting hormone at this stage, but it is not strictly necessary. Now stick the stem into the soil up to the bottom leaves. Firm the soil, water it lightly and cover the cutting with a large glass jar pushed securely into the soil. Usually the moisture condensing inside the jar is sufficient to keep the cutting watered, and new shoots appear in about a month. Don't take the jar off until the cutting has enough roots to support itself. (This may take the entire growing season.) The most important part of the process is selecting the planting spot. You will need a well prepared planting bed well amended with organic matter and a location in morning sun or partial shade as the cutting should be protected from hot afternoon sun. Alternatively, you might try sticking the cutting in a pot and enclosing the whole thing in a clear plastic bag. In this case, the pot should be kept in very bright but indirect light. Depending on what type of rose this is, you may find that cuttings root poorly. I mention this because many of the hybrid tea roses simply have weak root systems. Roses can also be layered, which involves bending a branch down to the ground in a "U" shape so that the bent portion is buried and the growing tip is above ground. To encourage rooting, wound the bottom side of the branch slightly where it touches the soil, cover it with a few inches of soil, weight it down with a rock and top with a generous layer of mulch. Water it occasionally during the growing season. Eventually, the branch will develop enough roots from the wounded area to support itself enough to separated from the parent plant. If the rose is a shrub rose growing on its own roots, you may be able to simply dig up and remove a sucker, or rooted shoot, from near the base of the plant. This would be an easier method of propagating it.

Peonies can live for more than 50 years, so locate them in a permanent site. The site should have full sun with a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight a day, away from competition from tree roots. Peonies prefer a deep, well-drained, fertile silt or clay loam soil high in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Good drainage is essential since peonies are susceptible to root rots in wet soils. Before planting, dig and loosen soil to a depth of 1 to 2 feet. Mix in liberal quantities of organic matter (a 2- to 3-inch layer) such as compost or well-decayed manure. Plant the peonies 24 to 36 inches apart. Dig the planting holes large enough to accommodate the roots without crowding. In heavy clay soils, plant the rhizomes so the upper bud is no more than 1 to 2 inches below the surface. In lighter sandy soils, they can be planted up to 3 inches below the surface.

The best time to plant or to transplant and divide peonies is in the fall from early September through October after the foliage has died down. Planting may be done in early spring for roots that have been stored in dry peat moss or sand. The divisions offered by nurserymen include three to five buds (or eyes) with a portion of the root system. These standard divisions are preferable to other sizes.

Peonies should begin to bloom within three years of planting or dividing and will not be at their best until they have been in a location for several years.

Peonies should be watered in the spring during shoot development and bloom time if dry conditions prevail. In summer, they will tolerate some dryness but with extreme drought, watering is required. In fall, peonies are developing roots, so it may be necessary to add supplemental watering. Let the soil dry moderately between waterings.

Apply one-half cup of 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer in early spring about 6 inches from the crown and carefully work it into the soil around each plant. A second approach to fertilizing is to apply one-half the annual amount of fertilizer after the shoots emerge in the spring, and the second half after the plant goes dormant in the fall. Avoid over application of nitrogen, which causes excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

Weeds can be removed by hand or by hoeing, but peonies have shallow feeder roots, so cultivating for weed control should be done with care. If mulches are used, 2 to 3 inches of an organic mulch (bark, wood chips, etc.) may be applied in early July. Mulching also will conserve moisture and maintain even soil temperatures.

Each fall after the foliage turns yellow or is killed by frost, cut off the main stems at the ground level. Properly dispose of the plant material to avoid harboring diseases over winter.

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "sunset on summer"