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PEONIES

peonies
PEONIES
Did you know? The Chinese call Peonies the King of flowers or the Flower Fairy.

Peonies are herbaceous perennials. There are 30 species of Peonies, but some are woody shrubs with 10 species. Peonies were named in honor of Paeon, the physician of the gods. Peonies produce large, often fragrant flowers. Blooming in late spring and early summer, Peonies come in shades of red to white or yellow. Peonies are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America.

Kingdom
Plantae
Division
Magnoliophyta
Class
Magnoliopsida
Order
Saxifragales
Family
Paeoniaceae
Genus
Paeonia

Peonies are hardy flowering plants that need little care and live through severe winters. After becoming established in a garden, Peonies bloom each spring for many years. Peonies are also extensively grown as ornamental plants for their very large, often scented cut flowers.

Peonies have been cultivated in China for more than 2,000 years, not only for their beautiful flowers but also for the roots, which were used for food and medicine. The herbaceous Peonies have been cultivated in home gardens for over 600 years. Clumps of Peonies may survive for as long as 50 years, and they are reasonably free from maintenance problems.

Since ancient times, Peonies have been regarded as the symbol of wealth, luck and happiness. Peonies always represent elegance and poise.
  • The Roman legions first brought Peonies to England in about the year 1200.
  • Peonies were described in botanical books as early as 1636.
  • Peonies (along with the Plum Blossoms) are the traditional floral symbols of China, where it is called Mudan. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the Peony as the national flower of China.
  • If grown in the sun, leaves of Peonies turn from green to burgundy in just one week. Planted among fall-flowering perennials such as Echinacea purpurea (the purple cone flower) and Eupatorum purpureum, Peonies come into their own color once again!
  • The Japanese name for the Peony, Ebisugusuri means medicine from China. In traditional folk medicine, Peony root was used as a treatment for menstrual cramps, asthma and convulsions.
Peonies' exquisite, large blossoms, which are often fragrant, make excellent cut flowers and the foliage provides a background for annuals or other perennials.

There are two types of Peonies grown in home gardens-
1. The garden or herbaceous type or Paeonia hybrids, have full bushy stems that grow two to four feet tall. Garden peonies grow from tubers.
2. Tree peony or Paeonia suffruticosa types often grow to eye-level height on woody stems with few branches. Tree Peonies are shrub like plants grown either from seed or from grafts.
Some of the few varieties of Peonies are:

  • Chinese cut flower Peonies, with large double flowers in shades of red, pink, and white.
  • Semi-double Peonies, characterized by several rows of petals and a center of petals mixed with stamens.
  • Anemone Peonies, similar to the double Chinese variety of peonies, but with a center of narrow petals.
  • Japanese Peonies, noted for the contrasting color of the center petals and their finely divided foliage.
  • Fernleaf Peonies with delicate, fern-like foliage, are dwarf in stature and bloom very early.
  • Single Peonies with only a few rows of petals standing in their utter simplicity.
In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make the peony as the state flower of Indiana. It replaced the zinnia, which had been the state flower since 1931.
  • Both types of Peonies can be planted in early autumn so that they have time to become established in the soil before winter. Grown peonies can also be planted in spring.
  • Plant the tuber in a well prepared bed, working compost or peat moss into the soil.
  • Dig a hole approximately eighteen inches across and 18 inches deep for each tuber.
  • Space the holes so that the plants will be at least 3 feet apart. Fill the hole about half full of soil.
  • Also mix in a handful of a balanced fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 at this time.
  • Plant the garden tuber with the uppermost eye not more than 2 inches below the ground surface.
  • A tuber planted too deeply will have difficulty producing blooms. Put a little soil around the tuber and water thoroughly.
  • Then fill the hole with the remaining soil, and press down firmly.
  • Water again to settle the tuber.

Plant a tree peony tuber with 4-5 inches of soil covering the graft. You can recognize the graft by the ridging on the stem and the different texture of the bark.

Peonies demand very little care since they are hardy flowering plants. Still, the following care tips enhance the living standards of the peony plants.

  • Peonies should be fed in early spring and again halfway through the growing season.
  • During the dry summer months, Peonies require regular, deep watering.
  • Cultivate a half cup of low nitrogen fertilizer into the soil when the stems are about 2 or 3 inches high.
  • Take care not to damage the roots, and try to keep the fertilizer from direct contact with them, and do not over-fertilize, as it results in weak stems and reduced flowering.
  • The feeding is important since the peony plant makes a very rapid early growth and needs this complete feeding to produce foliage and blooms.
  • For larger blooms, disbud the plant, allowing only the terminal bud to develop.
  • For quantity of flowers and a longer flowering season, leave some of the lateral buds.
  • To prevent the flowers from breaking or bending over during a strong wind or rain, provide a sturdy plant stake and tie the stem loosely to it with garden twine or strips of cloth.
  • Remove the flowers as soon as they fade to prevent seed development, which will use up needed food reserves, and affect next year's bloom.
  • In the fall, after the foliage dies back, cut the stems back to three inches, remove and destroy them.
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