Care FAQs

Why aren’t my herbaceous peonies blooming?

There are a number of reasons why an herbaceous peony won’t bloom:

  • Too young– peony plants can sometimes take up to 3 or 4 years to produce reliable blooms
  • Dividing– a recently divided plant can take longer to produce blooms
  • Poor nutrition– peonies are heavy feeders and like heavy soils with some clay. If you plant a peony in sandy or poor soil it will require fertilizer
  • Not enough sun– peonies prefer at least 8 hours of full sun. Partial shade is ok, but they will be less likely to produce flowers
  • Planted too deeply– peonies should be planted with the top eyes on the crown no deeper than two inches underground

Decline and disease caused by poor siting — peonies don’t like wet feet! Crown rot can slowly deteriorate the plant’s health and cause it to stop blooming

Why are there ants on my peonies?
Ants are attracted to and eat the sweet nectar secreted by the peony’s flower bud. Contrary to popular belief, peony buds do not require ants to open. To keep ants out of your house, turn cut peonies (in bud) upside-down in a bucket of water to remove any ants hiding in the flower.
When is the best time to plant peonies?

Peonies do best when planted in the fall. This is the time when the most root growth occurs, so you want to ensure your peonies have the best chance to get established before being subjected to summer heat. Peonies will survive if planted in the early spring- they’re very tough plants- but they may experience higher levels of stress that can impact the overall plant health. View our care calendar page for more information.

Potted peonies can be planted any time of year.

What do we fertilize our peonies with at Nichols Arboretum?

The peony garden at the Nichols Arboretum has never been routinely – if ever – fertilized since at least the 1930s – nearly a century ago!

Because of the viral and genetic research being done in the Peony Garden, we do not use any kind of chemicals that could impact the results of the study- including fertilizers and pesticides. Learn more about the research taking place in the garden.

For information on basic peony care, visit the American Peony Society website here.

How do you transplant a peony?

Peonies transplant best when they are divided. For guides on how to divide and transplant peonies, visit the American Peony Society website here.

How do peonies reproduce?

Peonies can be propagated two ways by the home gardener: via division or seed. Peonies are pollinated the same way many flowers are – insect pollinators carry pollen from one plant to another. Fertilized seeds drop to the ground in the fall, lying dormant during the winter, and germinating in spring. Due to the genetic recombination that occurs with pollination (random selection of genes from each parent), peonies grown from seed often do not fully resemble the parent plants. 

 

Some peonies cannot reproduce by seed and rely on humans to divide and propagate them. These include some hybrid peonies that are sterile and some of the full double peonies, whose stamens and carpels (the reproductive organs of a flower) have become petals.

Do you divide your peonies?

Generally, peonies should be divided every 3-5 years to keep them looking fresh and healthy. Studies have shown that when a peony is divided, its viral defenses are renewed and the plant is less likely to show symptoms of disease. Because there is currently research on peony viruses being done in the Peony Garden, we generally do not divide our peonies. This allows researchers to observe the effects of disease that can’t be seen on commercial peonies, since these are regularly divided. Read more information about the research being done in the Peony Garden

 

If you would like to divide your peonies, you can find a guide here on the American Peony Society website.

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