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How to Prepare Peonies for Winter? The Complete Caring Guide

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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.

Peonies- The Basics
Image Credit: https://www.homesandgardens.com/
General name:paeony
Genus:Paeonia
Family:Paeoniaceae
Type:Herbaceous perennial
Varieties:Herbaceous, intersectional, and tree
Season:Perennia
Sun exposure:Full
Soil type:Loamy
pH level:7 (neutral)
Bloom time:Spring & summer
Height:Up to 8ft
Width:Up to 3ft
Propagation:Seed; division
Germination time:14-25 days
Flower hues:Pink, purple, red, white, green, blue
Specialties:Low maintenance
Nice fragrance
Deer resistant

Peony Types

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

Herbaceous peonies
Image Credit: https://peonysenvy.com/

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

Intersectional peonies
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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

Peony trees
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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

Peony Care Guide

Peonies are perennial flowers that return year after year to offer you a color show. The best thing about peonies is that they are low-maintenance perennials. Therefore, they are an excellent plant for newcomers. Peonies can live for years with minimum care, and some species have been known to live for over a century. These plants do best in USDA Hardiness Zones 3–8, and they prefer to hibernate over the winter.

Peonies thrive in the winter. First, however, you must understand how much chill these plants require and how you should prepare your plants for a successful winter season.

We’ll go over all you need to know about caring for your peony during the winter months in this guide.

1. Winterizing Peonies

As we said, peonies love the winter months, and it is pretty easy to winterize peonies.

These plants require 30-40 days of chilly temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit to get started. As a result, do not prevent your plants from chilling out in excessively cold temperatures. It’s important to remember that it’s natural for them to prosper.

If you live in zones 3-5, where your plants will get adequate chilling hours, winterizing your peonies will not be a problem. However, your plants will have fewer days of cold exposure if you live in zones 6-8. And it’s here that you’ll need to take a few steps to ensure the finest blooms possible next season.

Are you already feeling worried? We suggest you don’t. We are here to guide you and read our next seduction to learn more.

2. Planting Depth

Planting Depth
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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.

3. Pruning Peonies

Pruning Peonies
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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.

Note: Avoid cutting the pink buds or the plant’s “eyes” at the soil surface when pruning.

After you’ve pruned the stems and leaves, clean up the debris. To avoid fungal infection in healthy plants, always strive to throw away the clipped foliage.

Pro tip: Use a plant marker to mark the actual height you need to prune your plants.

4. Mulching

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: A small layer of permeable mulch applied to newly planted peonies will help them stay warm during the winter.

Remove the mulch layer when the winter months are through to avoid overheating your peonies.

5. Fertilizing

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.

6. Watering

Watering
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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

Pests and Diseases
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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
  • Nematodes
  • 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.

FAQ’s

A few more probing questions on how to prepare peonies for winter.

1. How much cold is too cold for peonies?

Peonies are hardy plants that can withstand the cold of winter. A temperature less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, on the other hand, could destroy your plants. As a result, if you live in a particularly cold climate, it is preferable to mulch the root zone of your plants. You may also keep your peonies warm by planting them at least 2 inches below the topsoil.

2. Should I cover my peony plants during the winter months?

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.

3. Up to what temperature can these plants survive?

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.

4. Will cutting back the stems help thrive peonies?

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.

5. Do I need to fertilize my plants every spring or summer to let them thrive in winter?

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.

6. Do my peonies need sunlight during the winter months?

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.

Summary

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!

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