We all know peonies for their audaciously large, colorful flowers.
But they also have been used medicinally by the Chinese and Europeans for ailments such as pain relief, gall stones, and bad dreams.
We mostly grow them, though, for their flowers.
Herbaceous peonies are the most familiar. These two- to four-foot-tall and wide plants have floppy, softball-sized, single or double flowers in colors ranging from deep burgundy to white.
I love Festiva Maxima for its double, white-splashed-with-red, strongly fragrant flowers.
I also like the tree peonies.
These woody plants can grow to five feet tall with a stately structure. The yellow colored varieties, such as High Noon, are particularly stunning.
Intersectional peonies are a cross between the herbaceous and tree peonies.
Varieties such as Julia Rose feature a large plant that holds its flowers upright without support, but dies back to the ground each winter.
Peonies grow best in full to part sun, on well-drained soil -- and like my cat, don’t like to be moved.
Plant the crown so it’s only one to two inches below the soil line.
Support your herbaceous peonies now with rings or cages so the large flowers won't flop over.
If you must move or divide your peonies, do so in September.
Peonies will stop flowering if they're planted too deep, get too much shade or fertilizer, or are overcrowded.
There are few diseases that attack peonies, but one I see during wet springs is botrytis blight. This fungus causes the flower buds to dry and shrivel before opening. Give plants plenty of space to allow the leaves to stay dry.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about butterfly bushes. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.