Throgmorton: Peonies

Originally posted on May 19, 2011

Herbaceous peonies that die to the ground every fall are one of the easiest, long lived perennials to grow. Peonies add texture and spring flowers to gardens from the plains to high country.

Peonies are grown from root divisions or tubers. Fall is the best time to divide the plants. Dig around the plant and down at least a foot. Lift the plant and wash the soil off the roots. Cut the root into sections with three or more eyes or growing points. Replant the root divisions so the eyes are an inch below the soil surface. Planting too deeply causes very small, weak flowers or no flowers at all.

Peonies prefer full sun to partial shade. They’ll grow in almost any soil. Because they are long lived, prepare the soil deeply with compost. Depending on variety, peonies grow from a foot to three feet tall and wide. Once established, peonies are cold and drought tolerant. They’ll do well at elevations above 8,500 feet. The higher the elevation the later peonies bloom.

As soon as peonies start to grow in the spring they need support. Horizontal wire cages that can move up as the plant grows are best. Support is especially important for double flowering varieties. The blooms are so heavy they fall to the ground without support. Some folks disbud peonies for larger, longer blooms. Flowers usually come out in threes. Removing the two side budsmakes the flowering period longer.

Peony flowers bloom in hues of white, pink, red and speckles of these colors. There is even a yellow flower variety. Some varieties to look for are Felix Crousse a rose red; Karl Rosenfield a double pink; or Bowl of Beauty a fragrant light pink. New hybrids are available every year. Use a peony with cut leaves to border a bed. Use larger varieties as accent or focal plants.

Japanese or anemone peonies have large, showy, single flowers. The Japanese types come in a spectrum of beautiful pastel colors.  They’re as hardy and durable as other herbaceous peonies. Fern-Leaf peonies add delicate texture to the cutting garden.

Peonies are fragrant. They’re a must in the cut flower garden. Peonies can be borders or accents throughout the garden. They’re easy to grow and pretty much care free.  Peonies have eye catching blooms in May and early June.

Tom Throgmorton, of Throgmorton Plant Management, can be heard on KRFC, 88.9 FM, every Saturday morning at 8:00 am.

2 Responses to “Throgmorton: Peonies”

  1. Tamla Blunt says:

    Are peonies critter resistant (deer, rabbit, ground squirrel/chipmunk)? Also, what would be the best cultivar/variety for 8600 ft elevation? Thanks, Tamla

    • Kate says:


      Peonies are pretty tough plants once established. Deer will generally leave them alone, but rabbits will help themselves.

      You can try:
      • Single Pink: Bowl of Beauty, Gay Paree, Nippon Chief, Prairie Afire, Sea Shell, Sorbet, Westerner
      • Single White: Charlie’s White, Krinkled White
      • Single Red: Nippon Beauty
      • Double pink: Auguste Dessert, Choral Charm, Dr. Alex Fleming, Edulis Superba, Karl Rosenfeld, Moonstone, Shirley Temple, Vivid Rose
      • Double White: Festiva Maxima
      • Double Red: Felix Supreme, Kansas, Mons Martin Cahuzac, Rachel, Richard Carvel

      All are varieties we carry, call us for availability, 970-482-1984 or toll free: 866-384-7516.

      If you haven’t already tried Oriental Poppies, they are good for Zone 3 and are both deer and rabbit resistant!

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