6 things to know when you are growing peonies

The peony bushes that grace the flowerbeds by my back fence are some of my favorite plants in my yard. Planted strategically so they are visible from my kitchen window their fragrant, showy blooms -- complete with a plethora of little black ants -- remind me of summers days growing up on the farm.
Peony plants grace the yards and flowerbeds of many homes because they are incredibly easy to grow and yield such stunning results with little care. Their beautiful flowers come in a variety of colors ranging from white to deep garnet and knowing these 6 things, will ensure great success whether you are a beginner gardener or a novice.
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1. Plant in full sun
Peonies like to be planted in full sun locations in your yard/garden. They do best when they receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of unfiltered, direct sunlight daylight. In zones where the daytime summer temps climb extremely high, it's best to plant them in sites that get morning sun and some shade in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day.
2. Don't bury roots too deep
A common mistake many homeowners make when planting peony bushes, is they bury them too deep in the soil. Peonies flourish when the growing tips/buds are planted about 1" beneath the soil. Any deeper than that and your plants might not blossom.
3. Well-drained soil
During the active growing season, peonies are pretty tolerant of a variety of soils. They can handle chalky or clay soils as long as they are well drained and don't get too much water. In the winter though they do not like to have wet, soggy roots.
4. Divide every few years
Over time (maybe every 3- 4 years) peony plants will grow large and begin to group together too tightly. At this time they will start competing for resources and blooming will decrease. As fall sets in it's best to dig up plants, divide them gently into smaller clumps and then replant. If you're unsure the best way to divide your plants, Fine Gardening has a great video to walk you through the process.
5. Mulch over the winter to insulate
In areas where you receive winter snowfall, the snow will insulate plants from the frigid cold over the winter. If you live in a growing zone where you don't get snow it's best to cover the plants with 3-4" of mulch to help insulate them during the cold season. For tips on what mulch to use, check out New Garden and their break down on the benefits and drawbacks of various mulches.
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6. Fertilize twice annually
To encourage prominent blossoms it is important to make sure your peonies are well fed. Fertilize them early in the growing season and then again mid-season with a low nitrogen fertilizer. A high nitrogen fertilizer will promote vegetative growth instead of flowering.
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