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The peony, or paeonia, has not finished enchanting us with its large and generous flowers in different shapes and colors. Additionally, some varieties are deliciously fragrant.
With its luxurious appearance and elegant look, the peony represents romance and symbolizes good fortune and prosperity. Moreover, some scientists compare the peony to the red rose, for its originality, beauty, and appeal.
Today, in this article, discover all our advice on how to plant them successfully in your garden! You can learn the following:
* Botanical description
* Where to plant peonies?
* How to plant them?
* Care and maintenance
* Choosing the right location
* Useful tips for a good flowering
* Symbolism and meaning
The genus Paeonia consists of 33 deciduous species, all native to temperate Eurasia. Peonies have a woody stem with very robust fleshy roots and exceptional secular longevity. The deciduous leaves are compound, with toothed, lobed leaflets, which are very elegant in shrubby species.
Today, there are three categories of peonies. First, hardy herbaceous ones disappear in winter. Secondly, shrubs that gradually form a bush 1 to 2-3 m high, with large flowers. Thirdly, there are Itoh peonies, hybrids between a herbaceous peony and a tree peony.
In the garden, peonies appreciate open but not too tropical areas and are incredibly hardy. The herbaceous peony, in particular, can withstand temperatures below -50°C! The herbaceous peony prefers dense, rich, but well-drained and slightly calcareous soils, whereas the shrub peony prefers light, fresh, humus-rich soils.
Peony cut flowers work wonders in a bouquet with lilacs and bellflowers.
Where to Plant Peonies?
Peonies prefer a sunny location for good flowering, but they also tolerate semi-shade. They need space, lots of air, and do not like to be disturbed by neighboring plants. They are also afraid of excessive humidity, which can cause their roots to rot. Plant and shelter them from the wind.
Peonies are very greedy. The soil, preferably, should be clayey, humus-rich, deep, and porous. It is, therefore, essential to loosen the earth before planting and enriching it with well-decomposed compost or manure.
If the soil is too sandy to filter, peonies can have many leaves but few flowers. If the ground is clay, they grow more slowly but bloom better. You can lighten it by adding a little manure or leaf compost. Your soil should not be too acidic, and peonies prefer calcareous soils.
Do not plant your peonies in pots, as they appreciate fresh and deep soil.
How to Plant Them?
Peonies can stay in place for a long time if you follow the planting steps. Maintain a good distance of about 1 meter between each plant, to avoid competition for water and minerals.
Dig a large planting hole, 40 to 50 cm deep. Combine well-decomposed compost, bone meal, or roasted horn. Avoid chemical fertilizers, especially those with high nitrogen (N) content. Too much fertilizer can burn roots and encourage leaf development at the expense of flowers.
For herbaceous peonies purchased bare-rooted, bury them by covering the buds with about 3 cm of soil. If you plant deeper, the plant can have difficulty in flowering. Be careful not to damage the rootlets. Shrub varieties should be planted a little deeper, under 5 or 6 cm of soil.
Peonies do not like to be transplanted, as they take deep roots, and moving them would disrupt their root system.
Care and Maintenance
Regularly hoe around the peony to aerate the soil on the surface. Be careful not to damage the roots. Additionally, cut off the wilted flowers to prevent seeds, which would weaken the plant carelessly. It might reduce the risk of disease.
In the first few years, water them in times of drought. You can even water in the spring, before flowering. We advise you to bring compost or well-decomposed manure around your peony plants every year in the autumn.
Do not prune your peonies. If necessary, you can do a very light pruning in the autumn on the shrub varieties.
Choosing the Right Location
Choosing a location is a key element for successful planting. Peonies thrive in the sun. Otherwise, flowering can suffer. However, the ideal exposure can vary depending on your location. In Mediterranean regions, it is best to prevent the full sun early in the afternoon. East or south-east exposure is preferable.
Similarly, in areas where late frost is common, western exposure is better to prevent the first morning rays of the sun from causing too rapid a thaw and affecting the quality of the flowering. Everywhere else, we strongly recommend full sun exposure. However, be aware that a half a day of sunshine, at a minimum, is necessary for excellent flowering.
Useful Tips for a Good Flowering
The first flowering of herbaceous peonies takes place between the first and third year after planting. It depends on the size of the plant. If it has a root and an eye, it can easily take three years to blossom. On the other hand, if it has four to five stems with three or four well-swollen eyes, there is a good chance that it can bloom early in the first spring.
Concerning shrub peonies, flowering occurs in the first two years. A humus supply is necessary every autumn. You should apply a good quantity of well-decomposed manure all around the plant.
Peonies appreciate a supply of potash that encourages flowering. On the other hand, you should limit nitrogen because it weakens the foliage and supports the development of botrytis. So, choose a fertilizer accordingly.
Symbolism and Meaning
The Chinese were also aware of its virtues as a medicinal but also a beautiful plant. In Chinese culture, the peony is the queen of flowers. You can find it practically in all ceremonies. It expresses feminine beauty as well as love. At the same time, it embodies social success and abundance in all its forms.
In the Middle Ages, the peony also has its place in beliefs and legends. By making bracelets from the seeds of this flower, men used to ward off evil spirits, diseases, and even storms.
Nowadays, the plant is rooted in society and has become a typical flower. Additionally, it was designated to represent the state of Indiana. More importantly, the peony symbolizes the 12th wedding anniversary. In this case, it embodies a happy marriage.
Peonies fall into two categories. First, we have hardy herbaceous perennials and large-flowered shrubs that are often fragrant and hardy. In contrast, its flowering is sometimes affected by late frosts. These are plants that take a long time to establish themselves. Over the years, the clump grows without the need to divide or prune for the shrub peony and produces up to 60 flowers with a diameter reaching 25-30 cm, in May-June. Peonies like deep, acidic, calcareous, or humus-rich, but well-drained soils.