Peonies are currently in bloom throughout much of the state. In addition to being one of the most popular garden flowers, peonies make excellent cut flowers for enjoyment indoors. The best time to cut flowers for indoor use is in the morning. Plants have had time to recover from the previous day's heat and wind and have not been subject to any of the current day's stresses. Harvest the peony when the calyx (the protective green outer portion of the flower bud) is loosened and the petals are tight, but showing true color. One row of outer petals may also be loose. Harvesting at this time will give maximum vase life for the flower. The vase life for a peony is between 4 and 6 days depending on cultivar. A floral preservative, available at the local florist, may also help extend the vase life. Before placing in water, be sure and give the stem a fresh cut to aid in water uptake.
If your plants failed to bloom this year the cause may be due to:
- late hard freeze
- buds may have been killed by botrytis
- plants may be undernurished
- too much shade
- moved and divided too often
- plants too young and immature
- excessive nitrogen
- planted too deep
- plants too dry
Peonies are a relatively low maintenance plant in the garden. A clump can remain in place twenty years or more and still bloom well. Fertilize in the spring when growth in about 12 inches tall and again after flowering with a 5-10-5 fertilizer. Water is important, especially during bud formation and flowering. When transplanting a peony, the best time is in September. The divisions need 3 to 5 eyes and should not be planted deeper than 1 to 2 inches.
This article originally appeared in the June 3, 1992 issue, p. 89.