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Peony plants

Peony plants are a wonderful addition to the garden. There are some residents who don’t like how ants seem to be attracted to them but generally speaking, it will depend on the year when you may see a lot of ants on these beautiful plants.

I am fortunate that I have several peony plants in my perennial gardens. They are so easy to take care of and there are so many colors to choose from. There are some peony cultivars that can live up to 100+ years. I have one plant that has been on our farm for 50 years — a beautiful deep pink. I have also been given a very, bright yellow peony. It is the star right now of one of my perennial gardens. There are over 6,000 cultivars of peonies to choose from. The first year that you plant peonies they sleep and the next year they creep (so you will get a few flowers) and the third year, they leap (meaning they go all out with their showy flowers).

There are four basic groups of peonies which include herbaceous, woody, Itoh and species. Woody peonies are often incorrectly referred to as tree peonies. They are actually small shrubs that require cold dormancy in order to flower properly. Itoh’s are a cross between woody and herbaceous. They need minimal care and are easy to grow. Herbaceous are probably the ones that most gardeners raise in our areas. These will die back to the ground each fall and need a cold requirement in order to flower too. It is these gems that can live to 100 or more years. Species peonies are rare and unusual. They are usually defined as a wild peony. Gardeners will note that many of these have different foliage than the typical herbaceous peonies that we raise.

Peonies are a lot of fun because you can collect so many different colors and cultivars. These are often shared between gardeners and are a wonderful gift to receive. It is a draw back for some because they do not flower consistently through the growing season. They can give a bit of trouble for not flowering which is generally because of a few simple things that can be corrected. This can happen if they are planted where there is not enough sunlight. If the roots were planted too deep or if the plants is newly planted. As stated above, peonies will sleep the first year, creep the second year and the third year they will leap.

Peony plants have relatively few other problems. They are generally pest and disease free but like most other plants they do have a new problems. Rabbits like to nip off the newly formed shoots in the spring. They can also suffer from bacterial leaf spot and wilt. Wilt is one disease that is troublesome because a peony plant may not survive this disease and both diseases can spread to other plants and peonies both.

If you are using peonies for shrubbery such as to follow along a driveway or a sidewalk for the summer months only, you will want to pay attention to which peony plants you purchase. The woody peonies will not die back to the ground as do the herbaceous ones. At this time of the year, you can find peony plants for sale just about everywhere. You can also go online to the American Peony Society to check out the information that they have there for where to purchase peony plants as well. There are several listed within the state of Minnesota. The website address for the American Peony Society is https://americanpeonysociety.org/.

For more information on gardening or how to become a Minnesota Master Gardener, please email me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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