Peonies make a lovely addition to your garden. This perennial plant is commonly seen as a garden peony or as a tree peony. Both types are hardy in zones 2 through 8 and produce large flowers, some of which are double and triple blooms. Depending on the variety, peonies grow from two to four feet high. Though peonies display stunning blooms, not all are fragrant. The plant typically fairs better in cool climates.
Peonies grown from seed can be started indoors in temperatures between 70 to 85 degrees. Use rich potting soil and place seeds 3/4 inch deep in a small container. You can germinate several seeds in the same container. Peonies take six to twelve weeks to germinate. Maintain the soil's moisture by frequent watering, but take care not to over water. The soil should be damp but not soggy.
You'll see the peony's roots before a shoot appears. When roots are visible, move the container to the refrigerator. Do not have apples inside the refrigerator during this time as they produce ethylene gas which can kill your seedlings.
Once the shoots are one inch in height, you can transfer them to individual containers. Keep the seedlings where they will receive 10 hours of sunlight daily. Move the peonies outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. For the first season, plant the peonies in a semi-shady area.
If you start the seeds outdoors, sow them one inch deep in a partially shaded area with rich soil. Plant the seeds about six inches apart and leave them to germinate for two seasons. Water the seeds frequently and keep the area weeded.
Transplant the seedlings into full sun during their second season, planting them nine inches apart. Peonies typically won't flower for several years. You can check your plant's health by watching its overall growth and leaf color.
Peonies need a cold winter to produce blooms. Plant mature peonies where they'll receive full northern exposure. Do not mulch this plant in the winter.
An alternative to growing from seed involves transplanting and dividing maturea peonies. The best time to transplant is in September. Use a spade to find the peony's root structure and cut a section possessing three to five eyes and good roots. Immediately move the division to a hole deep enough to incorporate the roots. Leave one to two inches of soil between the eyes and the ground surface. Give each plant a three foot diameter area in which to grow.
The peony is slow to grow and slower to bloom. Peonies enjoy plenty of room, so divide and transplant the roots if you see less blooms. The plant is also subject to fungal infections. Symptoms occur as spots on the leaves, softening of the stems and overall decay. Prune infected areas and remove dead plants and their root systems if you see this happening. In some cases, the surrounding soil must be removed and replaced, too.