Intoxicating fragrance and amazing flowers, peonies are the crown jewels in the late spring garden. And just like crown jewels, these long-lived, hardy perennials can be handed down like a family heirloom.

Planting: Plant peonies wisely for abundant flowers. Select a site that offers six plus hours of sun each day; shady locations will produce weak plants with sparse blooms. Moist, well-drained soil is essential; avoid planting areas that are constantly wet or slow-to-drain. Help the soil by mixing compost into the planting hole at the time of planting.

Watering and mulch: Peonies should never go ‘bone-dry.’  Use a soaker hose to get water to the roots. Avoid overhead irrigation, when possible, to keep fungal powdery mildew at bay. If this is the only way you can water, do so early in the day so the leaves have a chance to dry. A light covering of 2-3” of mulch will help conserve needed soil moisture. Take note: mulch should not be touching the stems; keep it 4-6” away from the crown of the plant.

Pampering: Use a peony hoop to keep their beautiful blossoms upright. It’s best to hoop them early in the growing season. Fertilize each spring according to package directions. Dividing, if needed, is done in late summer or early fall. When their stems die-back in late fall, cut herbaceous (NOT tree peonies) to a few inches above the ground and dispose of.

Pleasing:  Peonies are fabulous as cut flowers for the home. It’s wise to cut sparingly the first few years, or just grow more peonies! And when you do cut, do so in the early morning. They will hit their stride with more blooms once they become established in the garden. Nice to know that the flowers are safe as peonies are reported to be rabbit and deer proof.