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Weather allowing peonies to bloom on time

By Gregg Eyestone

One benefit of the weather this spring is that the peonies will be in bloom by Memorial Day.

Peonies typically bloom in May and June in Kansas. Like many perennials, there are ones that bloom early, mid-season and late. Planting a mixture of these helps ensure bloom when needed.

Often, we are trying to hold the flowers back so they don’t bloom too early.

Harvested buds in the “marshmallow” feel stage are kept cool but allowed to dry down at least 20 minutes before putting in water. Flower buds placed in water immediately after cutting often “blast” or open prematurely. You may want them to open quickly this year.

Peonies may not bloom for several reasons. They are sensitive to planting depth, including mulching. The crown needs to be fewer than two inches from light. Too much shade and severe competition from other plant roots can prevent flowers. Late freezes may also kill expanding buds.

Iris, peonies and daylilies are the three main stays of the perennial garden. All of these are easy flowers to grow. Watering occasionally allows for a better looking plant.

Fertilize peonies at planting in the fall and prior to emergence in the spring. Peonies don’t add any new stem or leaf growth after bloom. The plant will not utilize fertilizer other than in the fall and early spring. A little nitrogen at those times is likely all the peony will need.

Selecting a peony can be daunting. They come as tree peonies, herbaceous and crossed between the two.

There are five primary flower forms. Colors include red, pink white and yellow. Many have fragrance and stem strength is something to consider.

The K-State Research and Extension publication “Peonies in the Garden” is a good reference for growing and selecting peonies. It is available on the web or at the extension office.

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