For The Love Of Peonies

Peonies presented in Karen’s inimitable serenic (new word, I made it up, but it is perfect for her calming, classical, beautiful style).

For the love of Peonies

I adore Peonies – in fact, some may say I’m a little addicted to them. I am, however, rather new to growing these stunning blooms. I’m in my second year growing but I will certainly be growing more – in fact I’ve just pre- ordered next years beauties from Sarah Raven for an October delivery. If you love them as much as I do and want to have a go at growing them then here’s my quick how-to guide on planting and caring for them.

Types of Peonies – There are three types of peonies, (i) the herbaceous types, which die back to ground level every winter, (ii) tree peonies, which are taller, woodier and keep their frame throughout winter (they are actually small shrubs and not trees) and (iii) intersectional hybrids, which are a cross between tree and herbaceous types.


  • The best and most cost-efficient way to buy peonies, if you are planting for a cut flower garden, is to buy and plant them while they are dormant and bare root. However, be aware if you do purchase this way as it may take a couple of seasons for them to flower. 
  • In terms of planting, I would make sure you add no more than 5cm of soil over the top. If you’re buying peonies only for your garden then I would recommend buying established flowers from your local garden centre. I did this last year and thankfully they have happily bloomed again this year.
  • For planting position, I would recommend somewhere with a sunny aspect. Peonies tend to like a rich soil that’s neutral or alkaline, although tree peonies can tolerate more acidic soils if they have good drainage. If you are planting bare-root peony plants then you will need to plant them as soon as they arrive. They are best planted in autumn or spring, although I prefer planting them in the Autumn months. Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting and add a layer of mulch. I tend to feed with seaweed in Spring and then just wait for the blooms to arrive.

Flowering and vase life – When the herbaceous peonies start to grow, make sure that you support them as they have huge blooms and will droop without this. They tend to have a very short flowering window, usually only 3-4 weeks, so enjoy them while they are here. If you are cutting them for arrangements then for the longest vase life harvest when the buds feel soft and squishy when squeezed.

Pruning – For herbaceous peonies, I leave the foliage until it has completely died back and then cut the stems back in the Autumn. Tree peonies, on the other hand, do not need pruning. All you need to do is remove the faded seed heads in the autumn. Don’t be tempted to pick off the faded foliage in autumn – just let it fall off naturally. 

My recommended top two

  • Bowl of Beauty – a beautiful, bright pink peony that flowers in May and June. Height is around 90cm. Although mine is more around 60cm as I forgot to provide adequate support.
  • Sarah Bernhardt– This is a large, double, pale-pink peony that flowers in May. Like the Bowl of Beauty, this is a herbaceous type and ideal for cutting. The scent is just wonderful. 

Jobs to do in your cut flower garden

  • Keep everything watered and fed. I use liquid seaweed every two weeks.
  • If you are protecting seeds with netting then make sure this remains in place. Once your seeds start to sprout and established then you can remove.
  • Keep sweet peas watered and encourage them to hook onto their supports/netting. Picking sweet peas regularly will encourage more flowers. For the best blooms, remove the curly tendrils as they grow.
  • Gently remove any weeds – just make sure you are definitely pulling out weeds and not your seeds.
  • If you have grown lillies and are cutting them to bring in then don’t forget they are toxic to cats.

With love and stay safe,

Flowers and Lifestyle by Margot – 

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