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The Peony is slowly gaining the popularity it deserves. There’s no denying that it is now the IT flower of the Spring and Summer seasons. But, since it is a perennial, how do you care for Peonies in the Fall to ensure it comes back healthy next Spring?
This flower is a favorite choice for magazine covers, baby showers, and even weddings. Since they are quite easy to take care of and beautify any garden, many gardeners want to get their hands on them.
Peonies can grow anywhere in the country. Believe it or not, many varieties can even survive a zone 2 Winter which can mean temperatures as low as negative 50 degrees.
Growing Peonies is not just about choosing the right location or preparing the soil. Even though it’s an easy flower to grow, there are still many care guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind and follow.
In this post we’re going to cover Fall Peony Care. You want to ensure that your Peonies are well taken care of once Spring and Summer have passed since they are perennials and will come back year after year.
Many gardeners think more about flowering plants and their care in the warmer months, but you want to make sure to keep these Fall Peony care tips in mind so you can ensure you’ll have healthier, more floriferous, and vigorous blooms at the end of the flowering season as well as the following Spring.
Do Peonies Need To Be Cut Back For Winter?
One of the Peonies winter care tasks can include cutting your Peony plants back, but this depends on the variety that you’re growing. There are three types of Peony, the plant, the bush, and the tree.
If you have tree Peonies, they do not die back during the Winter, which means you don’t need to cut them back. However, you need to prune away the branches or suckers that grow at the base of the plant. You also need to prune the tree to maintain its shape.
However, if you are growing peonies that are classified as herbaceous perennials or those with soft green stems, they do die back once the temperature drops during Winter.
When Do You Cut Back Peonies For Winter?
After the first frost, you can cut back your peonies all the way to the ground. Then be sure to remove any foliage and dropped flowers and leaves on the surrounding ground to reduce any chances of diseases.
It won’t look beautiful, but just look at it as putting your Peony plant to sleep for the Winter. It will also deter any Winter diseases from affecting your plant.
Support Its Soil Needs
Although Peonies are very adaptable, these flowers prefer a sunny location together with well-draining soil.
The ideal soil for Peonies is slightly acidic, with a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. Since your Peonies will remain in the same place (unless you choose to replant or transfer them) for more than 50 years (their lifespan), you need to take time to prepare the soil properly.
If you are planting in a heavy or clay soil, you can amend it by adding compost or a soil mix for Rhododendrons or Azaleas. This will make it easier for your plant to settle in and will provide the nutrients that it will need.
Give Enough Space
Give each of your Peony plants enough space to grow. Avoid overcrowding as it will not allow for proper circulation.
Ideally, give each plant at least a 3 to 4-foot diameter of space. If there is not enough air circulation for the plants, your Peonies will be more prone to gray mold or botrytis.
Plant In Depth
Peonies love the chilly weather. To help the flower buds settle in, the Peony roots should be planted close to the soil surface.
Plant your Peonies at least 2 to 3 inches deep. Don’t worry about leaving the roots exposed as these plants need the chilly weather to attain dormancy and also to set its buds.
They don’t need much mulch, if any, mulching these plants will cause their roots to grow down and deep making it less likely to set many blooms. Be sure to keep the roots closer to the surface for the best results.
Do Peonies Need To Be Covered In Winter?
During the late Fall, if you prefer, you can apply a light layer of straw or another lighter mulch. When applying mulch, always use organic materials like straw or shredded bark.
You can wait until the ground freezes before applying it or if the Peonies are in zones 4 and 5, wrap the Peony bushes with burlap to provide protection against cold temperature or wind.
In the Spring, remove the mulch or push it back away from the plants to keep the roots closer to the surface.
Peonies don’t need too much in the way of fertilizer in order to grow. But if you want to supply an additional source of nutrients, you can use an organic fertilizer like aged manure or compost.
When applying fertilizer, add a 2-inch thick layer on top of the soil.
You can also use inorganic fertilizers available in your local gardening store, but you would need to wait until Spring to use those.
How Do You Trim Peonies For The Winter?
Even if these perennials don’t need too much pruning, the older branches of the tree Peonies may become too leggy.
To renew the growth of the branches, for the oldest branches, cut the stem back to the base once the leaves of that branch all drop off.
Before pruning the branch, make sure to clean your pruners or garden scissors with rubbing alcohol.
One thing to keep in mind is that if your Peony is grafted, instead of growing from the roots, renewal pruning is a no-no. Instead, moderately cut back the lower branches.
Prevent Gray Mold
These perennials are prone to gray mold or botrytis blight, a fungal disease. If your Peony plant has botrytis, it can become black at the base, causing the plant to fall over or to wilt.
If you encounter this disease with your Peonies, to be sure to prevent the disease from spreading to other plants or to entirely cure it, remove the infected area through deadheading. Make sure that the soil has good airflow and drainage, as well.
Move The Plants
Although moving your Peonies is not advisable, if you need to relocate them, Fall is the best season to do so.
When moving the plants, carefully dig around and under the Peony’s roots. Take extra care not to damage the fleshy tubers. Carefully remove the Peony from the soil.
When transplanting Peonies to a new location, make sure that it also has well-draining soil. You can add compost to the soil to help it recover from the trauma of relocating it.
Additional Tips When Caring For Your Peonies
Feed your plants lightly. Use a very small amount of fertilizer at the base area of the plants. When feeding, do it after your Peonies have finished blooming.
Support the stems of the plants, especially when you’re in a windy location. You can use metal rings or cages to protect the stems from breaking. There are also ready-made shelters that you can purchase from your local gardening stores or online stores such as Amazon.
To prevent overwintering diseases, cut the foliage to the ground.
Remove any weeds, fallen leaves or debris from the plant bed before Winter. Dead plant materials can harbor fungal disease during Winter.
Peonies are a great addition to any garden. They also last for many years. If you want your Peony plants to last for several decades, make sure to properly care for them, even during the Fall and Winter months.
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