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Name: Peony
Scientific Name: Paeonia
Family: Paeoniaceae

Soil: slightly acidic rich organic soil with good drainage.
Sun: Semi-shade until the plant is accustomed to the heat. Try not to have direct afternoon sun.
Water: Water more in the summer as needed. Cut back during the cold reasons.
Fertilizer: feed it before bloom, after bloom and in the fall to help it store energy for next year. Use low nitrogen food to feed peony.
Care: Once established, very little care is needed. Trim back once it has entered dormancy.
Tips: For some hotter areas, dormancy can be induced by cutting off all the leaves and discontinuing watering. In order to save energy for big beautiful flower, cut off the faded flowers before seed pods start to form. This helps reserve energy for flowering next year. Since the peony has a very extensive and fast growing root system, avoid planting it around trees or large shrubs.


The peony is known for its stunning beautiful flowers. The size of the flower is overwhelming (the couple I have reached well over 12 inches in diameter). There are various colors and varieties of peonies; some have sweet fragrance, some just have showy flowers. With its beauty and hardiness, it is no wonder it is the national flower of China.

Peonies can be planted in the ground or in containers, as long as they are planted in soil with good drainage and rich composite. They need a period of cold to enter dormancy, which is needed to produce good flowers. During their dormancy, gave them very little water and no fertilizer. Sheltering the plant from the late afternoon sun helps.

There are two types of peonies, the tree peony and herbaceous peony. The flowers are similar in shape and size. The difference being the tree peony does not totally die back to the ground in winter. It retains the main branches and continues to grown year after year. In Asia, tree peonies are planted in temples and palaces, and they can live for hundreds of years. The tree peonies are somewhat hard to find and are usually rather pricy. The plant looks lifeless in winter. In April, leaves and flower bud sprout from the wooden branches. Shortly enormous flowers bloom from the tips of newly formed branches. Sometime they are so big and heavy that the soft branches are bent to the side. I have several Japanese tree peonies and some Chinese peonies. The funny thing is that I caní»t really tell the differences between the two. I guess most Japanese peonies have more showy flowers, while most of the Chinese peonies are fragrant.

Some of the common herbaceous peonies such as Sarah Bernhardt can be readily purchased at any nursery or chain stores such as Lowes or Home Depot; most of the times they are sold as roots. In a few instance, I came across a few potted ones at Lowes or local nurseries. Though the herbaceous peony usually requires more sunlight than tree peony; it does not do well in Southern New Mexico region. It developed much later than tree peony, and its leaves are burned by the hot weather before any flower buds are established. I have only had some success with the bare-rooted ones or the potted ones. The potted ones were already established with emerging flower buds. Under the hot sun, some of the buds develop into flowers, while others fade away before opening. I tried to put them in containers, plant them on the East facing garden, and in the shade. Last year, I moved one of my plants to a corner spot where only brief morning sunlight can reach it. So far the leaves have grown much taller than any previous year; however, no flowers yet. I guess through trail and error, maybe my patience will be rewarded someday.


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