Peonies have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, first in China and now worldwide. The plants are three- to four-feet tall with a round shape, bearing lustrous, dark green foliage. Peony flowers are large and fragrant, often blooming in early June along the Front Range. Early, mid-season and late blooming cultivars are available. In autumn, the foliage often takes on a reddish-maroon color.
The six-inch diameter blooms come in many colors including white, pink, red, maroon, yellow and bicolor. Peonies are classified into five types: single flower or Chinese, Japanese, anemone, semi-double and double. These groups are distinguished by the number of petals and the extent to which the stamens are petal-like.
Peonies do best in full sun or in light shade. They prefer rich, loamy, well-drained soil but will tolerate and bloom in heavier clay soils. Plant peonies about four feet apart due to their large mature size. Stake peonies early in the growing season since the flowers are very heavy and hold water, which causes them to flop over. Fertilize in the spring and mulch in the winter for best growth.
Peonies live for many years in a landscape and for optimal flowering should be placed in permanent locations. If a peony fails to bloom after three years in the same location, it is most likely due to being planted too deeply. When planting, roots should be placed no more than one inch below the soil surface. Ants are attracted to the nectar on the buds, but are not necessary for the flowers to open. Peonies occasionally have problems with spider mites and powdery mildew in Colorado.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
- Perennial gardening
- Flowers For Mountain Communities
- Herbaceous Perennials
- Powdery Mildews
- Spider Mites
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Updated Tuesday, November 19, 2013