Planting Bare Root Peonies

Mar 28, 2016 | Gardens

When I spoke at the Boston Flower Show recently I stopped by the Peony’s Envy booth. I’d chatted with Kathleen Gagan on The Garden Lady earlier in the day when I broadcasted live from the show, and she was telling my listeners about the many varieties of peonies that are available. She mentioned the lesser known Paeonia japonica, aka the woodland peony, and I had an immediate attack of plant lust. Once we were off the air, I asked if she had any of that peony species in her booth and she said that she did. I bought three.

When peonies are purchased as bare roots, it’s important to get them into the ground as soon as possible. So although the March winds were blowing and the air was chilly, I went out to the garden the next day to plant the three I’d purchased.

Gardeners often talk about the importance of not planting peonies too deeply. Ideally, the crown of the plants, where the shoots emerge from the root, should be an inch or two deep but no deeper. Unfortunately, however, I’ve frequently seen clumps of peonies that are not planted deeply enough because the gardeners were so worried about planting them too deeply they went too far in the opposite direction.

To plant my bare root plants I dug a wide hole to loosen the soil and then amended it with some compost from our pile. I opened the package and shook out the peatmoss that surrounded the root, letting it fall to the side of the hole. Next I placed the root in a shallow depression making sure the shoots were pointed upward. Finally, I covered the plant with just over 2 inches of soil. This will settle once it has rained a few times so the final covering won’t be as thick.

Here is how the bare root looked once I shook the peat off. I didn't leave the label there - I just placed it under the root so you could see the pictures that came with the plant. One of the wonderful things about this ground-cover peony is the colorful seeds it produces later in the season. I can hardly wait!

Here is how the bare root looked once I shook the peat off. I didn’t leave the label there – I just placed it under the root so you could see the pictures that came with the plant. One of the wonderful things about this ground-cover peony is the colorful seeds it produces later in the season. I can hardly wait!

 

Here is a shot of shoots poking up from the loam/compost mix. I continued to cover these plants so that the shoots didn't show. As the plant gets established they will poke out of the soil once again.

Here is a shot of shoots poking up from the loam/compost mix. I continued to cover these plants so that the shoots didn’t show. As the plant gets established they will poke out of the soil once again.

 

When I started to dig the holes the puppy came over to "help." It was if he was saying "Digging? I'm GREAT at digging!"

When I started to dig the holes the puppy came over to “help.” It was if he was saying “Digging? I’m GREAT at digging!”

 

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