Peonies from Heaven
Peonies are easy to grow in the Canberra region. They need cold weather, frost and plenty of sun to flower well. Peonies will reward you for years and years, with little effort. They are often called 'Peony Roses' (Paeonia species) because of the flower shape.
Heritage Nursery stocks a wide range of colours from whites, pinks and reds through to yellow, apricot, purple and almost black. Some are fragrant and their large, divided leaves add contrast and interest to the garden.
What do peonies like?
Sun - at least half a day. Shelter the blooms from strong wind.
Good drainage - especially during Winter dormancy. Peonies hate wet feet.
Rich, fertile soil with lots of Compost, Cow Manure and Fertiliser added.
Cold and frost is critical for good flowering – they respond to a good freeze on the root zone. This is most important for Herbaceous Peonies.
Water deeply and regularly, especially during flowering time and in Summer.
Garden Lime or Dolomite - at planting, then 1 cup lightly dug in every Autumn.
Regular fertilising - we recommend Healthy Earth All Purpose Fertiliser. Extra Potash each year will enhance flowering.
Patience - new plants of Herbaceous Peonies can take a few years to start flowering and are well worth the wait! Tree Peonies and Itoh hybrids will flower in the first or second year.
General Growing Tips
Select a sunny position in the garden - one which receives at least 6 hours of sun.
Prepare a hole 50cm wide and 50cm deep. Thoroughly dig in 2kg Healthy Earth Clay Breaker, 1 bag of Cow Manure or Compost and 2 cups of Garden Lime or Dolomite. Peonies love an Alkaline soil (pH 7-8).
Plant all types about 80cm - 1m apart.
Keep well mulched through the warmer months.
Fertilising – all kinds are heavy feeders - in early Autumn lightly fork in Lime, Cow Manure, Healthy Earth All Purpose Fertiliser and Potash, then more Healthy Earth All Purpose Fertiliser in Spring and Summer. Avoid root disturbance.
Types of Peonies
1. Tree Peonies. Woody clumping shrubs, up to 1.5m tall in our region. They are usually the first to flower in Spring and are quite drought tolerant. Tree Peonies are root grafted and are available as potted 2-year-old plants. They can be planted year round, although Autumn is preferred. Plant at the same depth as the pot it's bought in and do not disturb the root ball much. No pruning – just trim off any dead or broken branches after the new shoots emerge in spring. After flowering, remove any seed heads which develop.
2. Herbaceous Peonies. These look most like roses and are often sold as cut flowers. They grow as an attractive leafy mound up to 90cms high, with multiple stems of flowers in October and November. Plant the tuberous root of Herbaceous types in Winter, gently positioning the pink "eyes" upwards and shallow, no more than 2-3cms under the soil (tuck the rest of the root in at a downward angle). If you plant too deep, you’ll have lots of leaves and no flowers. Potted plants may be planted at any time. Cut the plant back to the ground in Autumn.
3. ‘Itoh’ Peonies. These fabulous, large-flowered varieties come from crossbreeding the Tree and Herbaceous types. They grow to 1x1m size and should be cut back near the ground in Autumn. They carry the best qualities of both parents - very large flowers which stand proud and upright on sturdy stems. Very free and prolific flower production. They flower after the Tree Peonies & before most Herbaceous Peonies. Keep an eye out for the ever expanding range of new varieties. There are new ones every year.
Are Peonies good in pots?
Large pots are suitable. The plants will be dormant in Autumn/Winter, when the pots can be retired to the background in a place exposed to cold. Choose a high-quality Potting Mix, fertilise during Spring, Summer and Autumn with Healthy Earth All Purpose and add 1/2 cup Garden Lime or Dolomite each Autumn.
No flowers? - Check for: Plants drying out; planting depth; too much shade (especially in February/March when plants are setting their flower buds for spring); not cold enough; or just not old enough yet. Chat with us about any problems.
Ants on the flower buds? Perfectly OK, just a sugary secretion that attracts ants - no harm done.
Fungal infections – not common but they can get brown/black Leaf Blotch. Keep the leaves dry, ensure good air circulation and water by drippers or water in the morning to avoid fungal infections. Destroy affected leaves and spray the plant with a fungicide if necessary. Ask us for advice.
Leaves yellow with green veins? Give some Iron chelates.
Itoh Peonies - the 'impossible hybrid'
The result of hundreds of crosses between Tree Peonies and Herbaceous Peonies. They carry the best characteristics of both parents - Large flowers (from Tree Peony) standing upright and proud on strong stems (Herbaceous Peony). They generally flower a bit later than the Tree Peonies and a bit earlier than Herbaceous.
Morning sun, afternoon sun or full sun. Very rich, well manured and composted alkaline soil. Dig in 2 cups of Garden Lime when planting and DO NOT OVERWATER.Err on the dry side. These are becoming very popular, with new varieties being developed and made available each year.
Success with Herbaceous Peonies
Select a very sunny position (minimum 6 hours of full sun daily).
Dig a hole 40 cm wide and deep.
Thoroughly mix ½ bag Cow Manure, 1 cup Garden Lime and a sprinkling of Healthy Earth Fertiliser with the existing soil.
Plant the tuberous root with the pink buds just below soil level (they need to be shallow planted to flower).
Water once, deeply. Thereafter as the ground dries out a bit (they will not cope being wet).
Newly planted Peonies need to settle in and establish for a couple of years before they flower.
TIP: Established plants benefit from a bag of ice poured over them in Winter to assist flowering when our winters are not super cold.
Spectacular grafted, September flowering deciduous shrubs to approx. 1.5 x 1.5m. The amazing blooms can be 20cm across (the size of a side-plate) and the possums and parrots don’t eat the buds!
They love the sun – at least 6 hours of full sun daily. Best planted in Summer, Autumn and early Winter. Avoid transplanting in Spring when they are active. They resent root disturbance.
Dig a hole 1/2m wide and deep.
Thoroughly mix 1 bag Cow Manure, 2 cups of Garden Lime and 1 small handful Healthy Earth Fertiliser into the existing soil….Tree Paeonies are heavy feeders.
Plant at the same depth as the pot it’s bought in and water well.
Water again when the soil has started to dry out…. they hate to be wet and are actually quite dry tolerant.
Top dress with Cow Manure and Garden Lime every Autumn.
These beauties are quick to flower and within a couple of years will reward you with many blooms per bush.
These plants are easy to grow and are great for beginner gardeners and Paeony enthusiasts or collectors. Heritage Nursery is always sourcing new varieties. Keep an eye out for Japanese types, Chow Hybrids and other new additions which are sure to delight.