Peonies are a garden favorite with lush, fragrant blossoms that fill the air with a nostalgic perfume from May through June. They are easy to grow in any sunny, well-drained location.
The Learning Gardens in both The Growing Place Naperville and Aurora locations are home to peonies that have been in place for years. Co-owner, Carol Massat remembers finding Laddie peonies growing at the Naperville location 47 years ago when she and Rich took over the business. “They had been growing here since the ’60s. We looked for plants to sell but they are hard to find. Since then we have been dividing these peonies and selling the roots in the fall every so often over the years.” Peonies can last for decades when cared for correctly.
The Growing Place Aurora staff recently dug up, cleaned and hosed down several peonies planted over 20 years ago. Peonies prefer full sun, at least 6 hours. The garden bed they were in is now covered by a shade tree so it was time to move them.
Early fall is the best time to transplant or divide spring blooming peonies and perennials. (For fall blooming perennials you will want to divide them in the spring.) Remove the leaves, making the stems look like handles. New buds on the root may be seen. They are the beginnings of next year’s plant.
Prepare the newly dug hole by filling it part way with TGP Garden Compost Mix. Place the peony root no deeper than 1.5″ to 2″ below the topsoil level. Add a bit more compost before covering with the soil that was removed from the hole. Water slowly.
Fern-leaf and cut-leaf peonies are smaller, with finer foliage, and the first of the herbaceous varieties to bloom in May. Itoh peonies have an extended bloom season and will die back to the ground. Cut down and discard herbaceous peonies for winter to avoid disease. Tree peonies have woody branches and often take 2 to 3 years to bloom, maturing in 5 to 8 years. Tree peonies do not die back to the ground. Do not cut back the woody stems of tree peonies. Watch a video of Joanie demonstrating how to prune peonies in fall.