Long live the peonies! Any diehard fan of flowering plants will chant this mantra if they have peonies in their yard or lawn. Peonies are, without any doubt, drop-dead gorgeous with their luxurious color and scrumptious petals.
Peonies should be planted in the late autumn and allowed to root before blooming in the spring and summer. However, if you want a spectacular peony display in your garden, you must prepare these plants for the winter. Fortunately, winterizing these plants is simple.
In fact, Peonies love to CHILL!
Here’s a step-by-step method to winterize your peonies. This post will explore how to prepare peonies for the winter frost.
Peonies – The Basics
Before going deep into the subject matter, let us look at some basic facts about peonies.
Here is a quick reference in a tabular form.
|Varieties:||Herbaceous, intersectional, and tree|
|pH level:||7 (neutral)|
|Bloom time:||Spring & summer|
|Height:||Up to 8ft|
|Width:||Up to 3ft|
|Germination time:||14-25 days|
|Flower hues:||Pink, purple, red, white, green, blue|
Spring flowers peonies are known for their luxurious colors. During the ancient and middle ages, these flowers symbolized healing and were used to treat stomach problems, nightmares, jaundice, and other health issues. However, peonies stand for love, romance, beauty, health, and happiness in modern times.
There are mainly three types of peonies found in gardens, and whichever variety you choose, you will get a color show every year.
1. Herbaceous Peonies
This cultivar, sometimes known as bushy peony, is low-maintenance and may grow and thrive in the same location year after year. Each spring, these small plants produce a large number of blossoms. Some of the varieties of herbaceous peonies are:
- Coral Sunset Peony
- Shirley Temple Peony
- Duchesse de Nemours Peony
- Coral Charm Peony
- Raspberry Sundae Peony
2. Intersectional Peonies
This variety is also known as Itoh peonies and is a crossbreed between herbaceous peonies and peony trees. Intersectional peonies are popular because they produce bigger, sweet-smelling flowers. This variety is cold tolerant and has a dense growth pattern. Some of the popular variety of intersectional peonies are:
- Hillary Itoh Peony
- Cora Louise Itoh Peony
- First Arrival Itoh Peony
- Prairie Charm Itoh Peony
- Lollipop Itoh Peony
3. Peony Trees
This variety of peonies, also known as Paeonia suffruticosa, blossoms in April and May. Peony trees, unlike herbaceous peonies, develop hardy stalks that survive the winter and let the tree grow up to 10 inches in diameter. Some of the popular peony tree varieties include:
- Koukamon Peony Tree
- Shima-Nishiki Tree Peony
- Renkaku Tree Peony
- High Noon Tree Peony
How to Winterize Peonies?
Knowing just how to winterize your plants can improve the likelihood of success the following year. You may prevent winter harm to your plants and ensure their continued good health into the next year by winterizing them properly.
Peonies adore the cold. As a result, getting them ready for the winter is not too difficult. In fact, peonies should be exposed to the cold, which is the reverse of what gardeners typically do to their plants throughout the winter. Thanks to this, the plants will have larger blossoms the following growing season.
Sounds intriguing, yes?
Peonies require 30 to 40 days of cold weather below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to promote bud growth. This CHILLING at a low temperature is normal for these plants. Therefore, your peony will have little trouble receiving a lot of exposure during the winter if you live in zones 3-5. On the other hand, zones 6, 7, or 8 make it more difficult for peonies to get enough chilling time. As a result, you would need to take extra steps to ensure that your plants are properly winterized.
1. Planting Depth
Planting peonies at the proper depth is probably the best way to allow your plant to adapt to your hardiness zone. However, it’s important to remember that the depth of the planting directly impacts the plant’s thermotolerance.
As a result, if you live in zones 3-5, you should plant the tuber two inches deep. You can use a ruler to determine the exact depth the plants’ “eye” should be set. However, if you live in zones 6-7, the eyes should only be placed just one inch below the topsoil. Likewise, it should only be half an inch below the surface soil in zone 8.
Note: It’s important to remember that the deeper you plant peonies, the less susceptible to cold they are.
A simple rule to remember is that the colder the place, the deeper the plants should be sown, and the warmer the region, the closer the plants should be sown to the topsoil.
For your fast reference, the following you can consider:
- Zone 6- 1” deep
- Zone 7- 0.75” deep
- Zone 8- 0.50” deep
2. Pruning Peonies
Another essential step towards winterizing peonies is to prune them. Pruning will help keep your plants nice and free from pests and diseases.
Allow all of the leaves to die down naturally at the close of the growth period before pruning. However, it will help to get your garden pruners or shears ready once you notice yellow and brown leaves, which normally happen after the first frost. When pruning, the shoots (of herbaceous cultivars) should be clipped to about an inch above soil level.
On the other hand, it is advised that intersectional cultivars be pruned to four to six inches. If you live in a colder climate, you may just cut the stem down to 1 inch.
To correctly prune peonies before winter arrives, follow the instructions listed below.
- Make sure you remove all the leaves so that the stems are left bare.
- To around 1″ above the ground, trim the bare stems.
Usually, it is all that is required to prune peonies before winter.
Tip: Make careful to pick up the debris around the plant once you have finished all the pruning. Moreover, avoid composting the clippings.
Another thing to consider is whether to mulch to winterize the peonies.
Yes and no are the answers to this question. To be more straightforward, mulching should be done depending on your living zone. It’s important to understand that adding extra layers to the topsoil will keep the roots from absorbing the clod ambiance.
If the frigid conditions are troubling your peonies, you might expect some mulch to be applied to the top layer of soil surrounding the roots. To raise the temperature around your plant roots, you can use mulch, sand, tree bark, newspapers, moss peats, and other materials.
Straw or shredded bark can be used as a light mulch. These will aid in protecting your plants from the bitterly cold weather in the northern states.
Mulching is not suggested if you live in zones 6-8 because it reduces cold exposure. In these zones, your plants will naturally receive less cold, and adding mulch will further overheat the peonies.
The amount of mulch your plants need will be determined by the weather in your area. As a result, monitor the weather in your area every day to see if mulching is required.
Note: For peonies that grow best in cooler climates, mulching is generally advised. Mulch can be used if it gets too cold, for example, if the hardiness zone is between 3 and 5. Mulching won’t be necessary much in zones 6, 7, and 8.
Peonies are happy and hardy plants. They need very little fertilization. You should only fertilize your plants if you are sure that the soil condition is too poor. Furthermore, while adding fertilizers, please do not overdo it. Using compost instead of chemical fertilizers is always recommended, and ass it to the soil before planting the peonies.
That said, if you find the soil isn’t doing well for your plants, go ahead and fertilize once every two years. Remember, over-caring your peonies would do more harm than any good to them.
The nicest part about growing peonies is that you don’t have to devote any effort to them. These plants don’t even need to be watered daily. After planting new peonies, moisten the soil quickly, but refrain from doing so after that. Water your peonies only when it’s too hot, and there’s little to no rain in the spring and summer. In such cases, water your plants once a week.
Bonus Read: 13 Water Garden Plants for Your Backyard Ponds
7. Pests and Diseases
Peonies are hardy plants that are resistant to pests and diseases. They are, however, susceptible to botrytis, which is widespread during wet seasons. Check if your plants have canker or have turned black at the root. It’s critical to deadhead the affected region and make sure the soil is permeable if you want your peonies to grow.
Phytophthora may also be found in your plants. It’s a life-threatening water fungus. If your plant becomes infected with this illness, dig it up, replace the soil, and start over with a new plant.
Other pests/ diseases peonies are susceptible to include:
- Tip blight
- Leaf blotch
- Japanese beetles
- Verticillium wilt
You May Also Read: Lawn Fungus Identification Guide & Pictures + 6 Ways to Avoid Them
8. Choose the Right Cultivar
Although all peonies are hardy and can withstand freezing temperatures, picking the proper cultivar for your zone is crucial. This is especially critical for people who live in zones 6–9. People who live in these areas should choose peony cultivars that can withstand warmer temperatures. For zones 6–9, choosing early blooming, single, or semi-double flowering plants may be best. Some of the types that thrive in warmer climates include Green Lotus, Eden Brothers, and Julia Rose.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Peonies?
Peonies enjoy the chill of cold weather. However, these plants may freeze to death if the temperature falls below 30F. As a result, if the winters in your area are bitterly cold, you should always winterize your peonies by applying mulch.
Furthermore, it is suggested to monitor the average temperature during the winter in places that get extremely cold, like Alaska. If it’s too chilly, plant the peony at least 2″ underneath the soil surface and cover it with mulch. You can bring peonies indoors during the winter nights if cultivated in containers.
Will A Freeze Kill Peonies?
Peonies can’t endure the extreme cold for very long. Therefore, keeping these plants covered with a thick layer of mulch when the temperature falls below 30F is a good idea. While brief exposure to this temperature is acceptable, you’ll need to take action in the long term to rescue your plant. To that end, peonies are susceptible to severe damage if the temperature falls below 20F. Therefore, planting them deeper or putting your peony pots indoors is advised.
A few more probing questions on how to prepare peonies for winter.
Yes! During the late fall and winter, peonies must be clipped. By pruning your peonies, you can prevent bug infestations and guarantee that they will produce stunning, vivid flowers the next year.
Not really. It is natural for peonies to receive cool temperatures as a part of their survival mechanisms. Yet, if your region receives a temperature below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, you can think of covering the plants with mulch.
The ideal temperature for these plants to grow and thrive is between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But if you live in zones 6- 7, go for cultivars of peonies that can adapt to the warmer climate.
Yes, once you see yellow or brown leaves at the end of the first frost, you can prune your peonies. Doing so will help them blossom better in the upcoming spring and summer months.
No, it would help to restrict yourself from fertilizing your plants too often. Peonies do not need fertilization unless the soil is completely devoid of nutrients. To learn more, refer to the above fertilization section.
Yes, peonies love bright sunlight. So, even during the winter months, keeping your plants in a spot that receives bright sunlight for 6-7 hours a day would be helpful.
Don’t worry if you forgot to cut back peonies. Like any other herbaceous bush, the peonies would go dormant and regrow the next year.
Yes, peonies can overwinter in pots. Simply trim your plant’s stems in the late fall before bringing the pot inside. If the winter months in your area are extremely cold, this is especially vital. The best protection from the cold is a basement or garage that isn’t heated.
We hope that this post has given you the resources you need to protect your everlasting peonies during winter. Although these plants do not live forever, if you give them the proper care, they will provide you with a brilliant spring and summer for many years to come. Who knows, maybe some of them will outlast you!