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Peony Care

Problems growing Peonies

By: Sandy Feather 2006
Penn State Extension

Q. I have three peony plants that did not bloom last year. I fertilized in April with Holland Bulb Booster (9-9-6), and now two of them have quite a few big buds on them. The third one has a single large bud and some other very small buds that do not seem to be getting any bigger. I have had this plant for about three years and have not had much luck with it. Can I do anything this year to make it bloom better, or do I have to wait until next year?
  A. Peonies fail to bloom for a number of reasons, including lack of maturity. You should give a peony at least three years in the same spot before moving it or deciding to toss it on the compost pile for failure to bloom.

Peonies grow from tubers, which are underground stems. The size of the tuber and number of buds or "eyes" it has affects how quickly it begins to flower after planting.

Large Peony Tubers

Larger tubers with three to five eyes may flower the second year after planting; those with less than three eyes can take three to five years to mature enough to bloom at all, or bloom as well as you would like.

Pink peony in full bloom
Pink Peonies

Peonies may also fail to bloom if the tubers are planted too deeply. They should be planted so that the eyes are no more than 1 inch below the soil surface. Too much shade can keep peonies from blooming or blooming heavily. They flower best in full sun and need at least six hours of sun a day to perform well. In addition to the shade cast by trees and shrubs, their roots may compete with your peonies for water and nutrients.

Best Peony Soil Conditions

Peonies grow best in a well-drained, loamy soil with a pH (acidity or alkalinity) between 6.5 and 7.0. Peony tubers can rot in poorly drained soil. Soil fertility can also impact how well peonies bloom. You should fertilize peonies annually, preferably based on soil test results. It is best to use a fertilizer that has a low to moderate amount of nitrogen, such as the product you used this spring. Excessive nitrogen can cause peonies to produce all foliage and few or no flowers.

Fertilizer for Peonies

All fertilizers are labeled with the analysis -- the numbers on the container that indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (potash) the fertilizer contains. The nutrients are always listed in same order. Be careful to avoid getting fertilizer granules on the foliage or crown of the plant because the salt content can burn them.

Late Frost

Finally, we did have a few hard frosts after your peonies were up and growing. It is possible that the small buds you see are not growing and developing because they were killed by frost.


Black spots on peonies

Perennial plants of the year

Planting in the Shade



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