PEONY PRO TIPS: Master Gardeners share tips, tricks

Right on time, April showers have created May flowers. Peonies are blooming.

Many Rogers County Master Gardeners are self-proclaimed peony fans and have cultivated some tips and tricks for the seemingly temperamental plant.

Sunlight

When it comes to sun exposure, tips vary.

"My particular peonies get very limited sun. I would maybe 2 hours of evening sun," said Ashley Chapman. "The peony bush that gets the most sun exposure is actually my best performing plant."

Miriam Legett said, "Having transplanted myself from Illinois several years ago, I planted my first peony bush this past week. Following the instructions from another Master Gardener, which I received when I purchased the plant, it was planted it where it will get six hours of morning sun and then spend the rest of the day in the shade."

Support

"It's planted in well draining soils, with some "home-grown" clean kitchen compost under the roots. I've supported the plant with a tomato cage, not ideal but will have to do until after this weeks weather," Legett said. "They like their feet to get cold in the winter, which is a help in this climate. Supporting the branches, once they are heavy with flowers, seems to be the real challenge. Growing up, I remember folks would allow their peonies to grow without support."

Are peonies high-maintenance?

"Actually, I think there are some plants which are much more in the "high maintenance" category. While peonies may not bloom for the first year to 3 years after transplant/planting, once they start it's a non-stop show," Legett said.

Chapman agreed peony maintenance is pretty simple: "The only thing we do is try to keep them free of weeds."

Meg Counterman added, “I never water mine. I’ve even taken the hedge trimmers to them. They’re hardy plants.”

Master Gardener Janice Hensley added, “But, peonies do not like to be planted too deeply and will not bloom if they are. They also hate to be transplanted.”

What about the ants?

"Why do peonies attract ants? One of the simple and charming explanations I've received about ants and peonies is they love the sweet liquid produced by the buds," Legett said.

She added that the ants do not harm the plant and are just another pollinator.

"Hopefully they will stay with the peony and out of my kitchen," she added.

Counterman said she learned a tip from a university website that suggests "before taking peony flowers into your house, you can turn them upside-down in a bucket of water to get the ants off."