Alec White from Primrose Hall Peonies offers his expert knowledge and experience gleaned from years of growing these gorgeous blooms
Loved for their luxurious flowers in early to mid-summer, fabulous fragrances and assortment of colours, peonies are really easy to grow. They're the perfect plant for beginners – the secret is all in the planting! Plant your peony correctly and you’ll be rewarded with decades of glorious flowers on a very low-maintenance plant. Plus, they're rarely troubled by slugs, snails, rabbits or deer.
Choosing your peony
There are literally thousands of varieties of peonies, flowering from mid-April until early July, and in the widest possible colour range. The first challenge is to choose which peony to grow! And remember, if you have a balcony or smaller garden, you can grow patio or intersectional peonies in containers.
Herbaceous peonies generally don’t flower reliably until they are about five years old and for tree peonies it can be a couple of years more. Whichever peony you choose, buy a well-established plant to ensure you get off to the best possible start.
Location, location, location
Peonies will thrive in full sun or part shade. If possible plant in a sheltered position, although the intersectional hybrids will tolerate a more exposed location.
The RHS relies on our members and donors so we can look after our Gardens, inspire children to have a passion for plants, train the next generation of gardeners and find solutions to the environmental problems facing our planet. Find out more
Peonies are not typically too fussy about soil type; any soil will do provided it's free draining. If you have particularly poor soil you can add organic matter, such as compost or manure, to your border before planting. Peonies benefit from feeding once a year and a slow-release, well-balanced feed is perfect.
The most important thing to remember when planting herbaceous and intersectional peonies is not to plant them too deep in the soil. The crown should be planted no more than 2.5–5cm below the surface. If planted too deeply, your peony will have marvellous foliage but will not flower. Remember to be careful when mulching your borders – peonies benefit from regular mulching but you should avoid burying the crown.
Caring for your peony
Peonies are really low-maintenance plants and require very little care once planted. Typically peonies will live for decades in the garden (some will live for more than 100 years), blooming more every year. Some of the taller varieties, such as ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ may require a plant support and you should place your plant support over the peony in the early spring. In the autumn remember to cut back the dead foliage to the ground, keeping the plant tidy ready for it to shoot again the following spring.
Top tips for growing peonies
- Buy a well-established plant
- Plant in a sunny or part shade position
- Plant in any soil that is free-draining
- Plant at the correct depth (for herbaceous peonies this means 2.5–5cm below the surface)
- Feed once a year with a slow-release and well-balanced feed
- Cut back dead foliage in the autumn, ready for the plant to shoot the following year
Primrose Hall Peonies