Planting Herbaceous Peonies

peony-garden.jpgOnce the fall sets in, I focus on all of those plants that favor a fall planting. Of course the spring flowering bulbs are routinely planted in the fall, but right now I am thinking about peonies. I have had a big love for peonies my entire gardening life. At one point early in my gardener history, I had many hundreds of them planted on my property in rows, like crops. This infatuation with peonies predates my infatuation with design. I wanted those plants, and had no idea of what to do with them beyond digging a hole and planting. I was young, working, and struggling. Every extra cent went to plants, and in the fall, to peony roots. The picture above, one of the few that I still have. Peonies are just about the easiest perennial on the planet to grow.


Peonies are ordinarily sold as bare root divisions, in the fall. A cluster of juicy roots with dried tops arrive bathed in barely moist sphagnum moss. Of particular interest-the number of eyes. Those red eyed shoots with send forth stems, come spring. A standard division-3 to 5 eyes. Double divisions are occasionally available. A peony asks for just a few things. Full sun, somewhat alkaline soil, and a planting at the proper depth. Per the drawing above from the Canadian Peony Society, the eyes should be 2 inches below ground-after they are watered in and the ground settles. They may refuse to bloom, if the are set to shallow or too deep. As long lived as peonies are, they resent transplanting. Smaller divisions transplant more readily.peony-convention-1975.jpg ion into a robustly shrubby and heavily blooming plant. Peonies are incredibly long lived perennials-perhaps the longest lived of all perennials, save asparagus. Herbaceous peonies die back to the ground, come the winter. In May their thick stems and glossy leaves are topped with an amazing variety of flowers. Post the bloom season, their strong stems and glossy leaves grace the garden with a broadleaved presence.


I cannot remember which birthday it was, but my Mom gave me a trip to the National Peony Convention in Mansfield Ohio. I was in my mid twenties. I had to have been the youngest attendee at the convention by 30 years or better. I have a distinct memory of a great worry. What if not enough people my age got interested in growing peonies? My Mom put that to rest. Could I have afforded the trip and the lodging and the meals? No. Older people who were more established or perhaps retired attended the convention. There certainly were other gardening Moms taking their kid to specialty plant meetings and exhibitions.

My love of gardening has everything to do with Julia. Along with exposure to good books, manners, and study habits, she saw to my exposure to nature, dirt, and plants. I can still remember what a happy trip this was. Rooms full of peony flowers in milk bottles, each specimen more lovely than the last.

peony-convention.jpg photographing-the-peonies.jpg peony-sea-shell.jpg peony-White-Cap.jpg
ProQuest, UMI Dissertation Publishing Container production and post-harvest handling of lotus (Nelumbo) and micropropagation of herbaceous peony (Paeonia).
Book (ProQuest, UMI Dissertation Publishing)

Two types of

2002-12-16 17:52:29 by Peonies

Tree peonies grow superiorly well in the Eastbay and are now becoming available as "bare root" plants at most nurseries. Some people have success with some varieties of herbaceous peonies which need more chill and dormancy to perform well. Also check out for more info. You will never regret planting a tree peony!

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