Now that it’s April, who can wait for the peony plants in our gardens to bloom? While most gardeners would prefer to plant peonies in the fall, lots of us flower-lovers end up planting peonies in the spring. There always seems to be so many different cultivars available when the garden centres open in the springtime. Read on for all my tips for planting peonies in spring.
Buying Peony Plants in Spring
Herbaceous peony plants are sold in two different forms in the springtime:
- Bare root peonies (dormant tubers in bag with sawdust/peat)
- Potted peonies (potted plant with a few dark red stems growing up)
Potted peonies are generally larger and more expensive than bare root peonies. Some specialty peonies may only be available in bare root form.
Tips for Planting Peonies in Spring
Here are my top tips for planting peonies in spring:
- Shop and plant early: get them in the ground in March or April
- Bare root plants are generally cheaper than potted plants
- Potted plants have a better chance of flowering this season (but in general, the planting year is never great for flowers)
- Water the peony plant well before planting (bare roots can be soaked in water for a few hours)
- Dig a hole in the soil that is twice as wide as the plant, but no deeper. Ensure ground soil is moist.
- The soil line of potted peonies should line up with the existing soil level in your garden. Bare root peonies should be planted 1″-2″ below the soil surface. Planting peonies too deep can restrict blooming.
- Apply a quality organic mulch like homemade compost to the soil surface after planting.
- Keep the plant well-watered throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
“If you buy plants in bloom at a local nursery in spring, be careful not to plant them any deeper than they were growing in their nursery pot. Plant peonies with the “eyes” -the tips of the pointed, pinkish new stems – just 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface in northern gardens, or close to the soil surface in warm climates.”Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden, by Deborah L. Martin
Most common varieties of herbaceous peonies are available in both bare root and potted form in the springtime. Specialty or rare cultivars may only be available at specific times of the year (generally for fall planting) and/or in limited forms (often bare root when shipped). This spring I planted Karl Rosenfield Peony (Bright Pink), Sarah Bernhardt (soft pink), and Coral Charm – all fairly common varieties. Here is a video of me planting them:
Benefits of Planting Peonies in Spring
Here are some of the benefits of planting peonies in spring:
- You get to garden outside after a long winter with only houseplants and seedlings (YAY!!!)
- Wide variety of types at local nurseries and in catalogs/online
- Most types are in-stock and available for immediate purchase
- Instant garden gratification (or even pot them up if you don’t have a place for them right away….ahem….)
Drawbacks of Planting Peonies in Spring
Some gardeners will only plant peonies in the fall. Here are some of the drawbacks of planting peonies in spring:
- Potential for delayed growth due to non-dormant transplanting
- Need to be watered after transplant more than fall-planted peonies (I recommend installing drip irrigation for peonies)
- May not bloom in the first year (this year is more like growing year zero than growing year one)
- No end-of-season blowout sales offered by retailers yet
So, a peony planted in spring can certainly be expected to survive and thrive with dedicated TLC – it just may take a year or two for the flowers we all love. The year when it flowers should be considered its growing “Year One”.
Perfectly Planted Peonies in Springtime
So, if there’s a peony you really want – snap it up when you see it! It is completely fine to plant peonies in spring.
Spring is perhaps not the ideal transplanting season in general because the heat of summer can be harsh, but the spring season certainly seems to be the best peony shopping season! Check out your local garden centres, garden club sales, and even swap a few types with your gardening friends. And after planting, just be sure to keep your peony well mulched, watered, and generally cared-for throughout the year.
Spring is also a great time for choosing and planting new hellebore flowers into your shadier perennial garden beds!
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