Where to Plant
Either in full sun or part shade. But, what exactly do these terms mean?
Planting your peonies in full sun generally means that they will bloom somewhat earlier (than the same peonies planted in part shade). However, they will probably also need to be watered more often, and the colours of the blossoms will fade more quickly.
Planting peonies in part shade means that they will probably flower somewhat later, and that they will produce fewer blossoms (than the same peonies planted in full sun). However, the individual blossoms will usually last longer, as will the overall blossoming season, and the flowers will be unlikely to fade much.
First dig a hole. The depth of the hole depends on whether you're planting root stock or a potted peony.
The depth at which you plant these pieces of root stock is very important. The growing buds (called "eyes" or "crown buds") should be no more than two inches (5 cm) below the surface of the soil. If peonies are planted too deep, they may not flower for several years (or, in some cases, may hardly flower at all).
However, if you want your peonies to thrive and look magnificent, you can improve their situation, as follows:
Dig a hole that is wider and deeper than you need for the plant alone. If the soil is poor, make the hole about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 2 feet (60 cm) deep. At the very bottom of the hole put a layer of sand or gravel (unless your soil is naturally sandy or gritty). This provides drainage peonies don't like their roots to be water-logged.
Then put down a thick layer (about 4"/10 cm) of compost, bone meal, or well-aged manure (or a mixture of all three!). This provides long-term "food" for the peony. (Some people will also add a handful of commercial fertilizer (10-6-4), but it's not really necessary. Also: fertilizer is very strong and can burn the peony if the fertilizer comes in direct contact with the roots of the plant.) Water this layer well, and wait until the water has drained away. This way you can tell for sure that the drainage is good. If the water stays in the hole for longer than 5 minutes, you should have put more sand in the drainage layer!
Mix the soil you dug up with some peat moss, compost, or other organic matter (Note: If your soil is naturally very heavy or "clayey", mix in sand as well as peat moss). Now add a little of this mix enough to make a small mound, and put the peony on top of the mound; make sure to spread the roots out evenly around the mound.
Now put the peony in the hole. If you are planting root stock, measure from the "eyes" (i.e. growing buds) to the surface, and make sure the eyes are not too deep (i.e. not more than 2 inches (5 cm) from the surface). If they are, put more soil in the hole, and measure again. For potted peonies, the top of the soil in the pot should end up level with the surface of the soil in your garden.
When you are satisfied that the peony is at the right depth, fill up the hole with your soil mixture. Tamp down the soil, add more soil, if needed. Then, water well, and you're done!
Last revised August 29, 2008