Peony Planting Instructions

A Step-by-Step guide to planting peonies correctly and for the best possible results!

Please note that newly planted peonies usually don’t flower the first year, which is spent developing a good root system and foliage. By the second spring after planting, you should see your first blooms.

Choosing a Planting Location

Choose your location wisely as peonies resent disturbance and do not respond well to transplanting once established.

Provide shelter from strong winds.

Plant away from trees or shrubs; peonies don’t like to compete for food and moisture.

Space them three to four feet apart for good air circulation; this is very important to prevent their most common diseases, the fungal Botrytis and Phytopthera.  They can also develop Powdery Mildew if not given enough air circulation.

Peonies like full sun, and though they can manage with half a day, they bloom best in a sunny spot.

Plant peonies in the fall: in late September and October in most of the country, and even later in the South.

If you are planting in sandy or heavy clay soil, amending with compost or a soil mix labeled for azaleas and rhododendrons, before planting.

Don’t plant too deep! Peonies that are planted too deep will not bloom.

How to plant

peony planting DiagramDig a generous-sized hole, about two feet deep and two feet across in well-drained soil in a sunny spot.  Use a garden fork to loosen the sides of the planting hole as well.

Peonies prefer deep, fertile, humus-rich, moist soil that drains well.  Soil pH should be neutral to slightly acidic, 7.0-6.5 pH.  If your soil is very acidic, add a few handfuls of lime and mix throughout the planting hole.

Add a shovelful of compost and a handful of an all-purpose, organic, granular fertilizer, to the bottom of the hole and then add a shovelful of the original soil.

Build up a “cone” of this amended soil inside the planting hole and then position the peony root on top of the cone with its roots hanging down the sides.

Set the root so the eyes (the pink or white buds at the top of the roots) face upward on top of the soil, placing the root just 2 inches below the soil surface in northern gardens.

In southern gardens, plant 1 inch below soil line. It may feel odd to leave roots so exposed, but peonies actually need chilling to attain dormancy and set buds.

For Itoh hybrids, 3 inches deep in northern gardens, 2 inches deep in southern gardens.

Water thoroughly; keep the area consistently moist until the ground freezes.

For more info

For more visuals and planting instructions, see The Plant Expert’s page on Planting Peonies.