Best Ways for Planting Peonies in Spring

Peonies are undoubtedly one of any garden’s most enchanting and cherished flowers. Their magnificent, full-blown flowers come in a stunning array of hues and emit a delightful fragrance that permeates the entire spring landscape. However, proper planting techniques for peonies in spring are imperative. Adequate planting techniques are essential to ensure these charming blooms thrive to their full potential. This comprehensive guide will take you through the best practices to plant peonies in spring, equipping you with the knowledge to set them up for long-lasting success.

When to Plant Peonies

When to Plant Peonies

Timing is everything when it comes to planting peonies in spring. They have particular requirements:

Fall vs. Spring Planting

The best time to plant peonies is in the fall. Planting in autumn allows their roots to be established before winter dormancy. Well-developed roots will be ready to support vigorous growth when the plants emerge in spring.

However, spring planting can also be successful if done early while the plants are still dormant. The key is to get peonies in the ground 4-6 weeks before they break dormancy. In most zones, aim to plant in March or early April.

Avoid Mid to Late Spring

Never plant peonies after they have broken dormancy in mid to late spring. The tender new growth is easily damaged, severely damaging the plant. Wait and plant them in the fall instead.

Planting peonies at the right time sets them up to flourish when they awake from dormancy, and conditions are ideal for growth. Now, let’s look at choosing the optimal planting location.

Where to Plant Peonies

Peonies require specific site conditions to thrive. Here is how to select the ideal planting location:


Peonies need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. The morning sun is preferable to the hot afternoon sun in warmer zones. Insufficient sunlight will result in reduced flowering.


Well-draining, nutrient-rich soil is essential. Peonies dislike wet feet and will rot in heavy clay or continually soggy soils. Sandy loam enriched with compost is ideal as it drains well and retains moisture.


Give peonies room to reach maturity without being crowded. Space plants 3-4 feet apart in all directions. Overcrowding stresses plants and reduces flowering.


A location sheltered from strong winds will prevent damage to emerging shoots and buds. A site near a wall or building is ideal.

Selecting an optimal planting site sets up peonies for healthy growth and maximal flowering. Now, let’s look at preparing the soil.

Preparing the Soil

Peonies require very fertile, loose soil to thrive. Here’s how to prepare the planting bed:

Test and Amend the Soil

Have a soil test done to determine pH and nutrient levels. Peonies prefer a neutral pH around 7.0. Add lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower it as needed. Also, mix in several inches of aged compost or well-rotted manure to enrich the soil with organic matter.

Deep Digging

Peonies have deep root systems. Digging the soil at least 18-24 inches deep is critical to provide room for roots to penetrate downwards. Turn the soil over entirely and break up any dense layers or clumps.

Mound the Soil

Create mounded beds about 6-12 inches tall to improve drainage and give plants a head start. Amend the entire bed with compost or manure, so roots have nutrients wherever they grow.

Preparing the soil well will reward you with thriving, long-lived peonies. Next, let’s look at selecting top-quality plants or tubers.

Choosing High-Quality Peony Plants or Tubers

Choosing High-Quality Peony Plants or Tubers

When selecting peonies for planting, seek out reputable growers and scrutinize plants or tubers:

Purchase from Reputable Nurseries

Buy from specialty growers known for producing top-quality peonies. Avoid big box stores where plants are often neglected. Local peony farms are ideal.

Inspect Roots or Tubers

Choose plants with robust root systems showing no signs of damage or disease. Tubers should be plump and firm without mold, rot, or desiccation.

Look for Mature Tubers

Mature tubers with 3-5 eyes or growth nodes will bloom sooner than smaller 1-2 eye tubers. Go for the most giant tubers your budget allows.

Consider Bare Root vs Potted

Bare roots are only available in fall. Potted plants can be planted in spring, but scrutinize roots when transplanting.

Picking vigorous, healthy peonies ensures your new plants get off to a great start when planted. Now, let’s look at the actual planting process.

How to Plant Peonies

Here are the steps for proper peony planting technique:

Dig Generous Holes

Dig holes 2-3 times wider than the tuber or root ball with sloped sides. Holes should be deep enough to cover the roots or tubers with 1-2 inches of soil.

Place Tubers Properly

If planting tubers, position them horizontally with the eyes or growth nodes facing up. Handle carefully to avoid damaging buds. Spread roots outwards over the mound.

Backfill with Amended Soil

Fill holes gently with the amended soil mix without damaging roots or tubers. Do not pack tightly. Cover roots or tubers with 1-2 inches of soil.

Water Thoroughly

Water freshly planted peonies well to settle soil around roots and eliminate air pockets. Add more soil if needed after watering to maintain proper depth.

Proper planting gives peonies the growing conditions they need to settle in and thrive. Now, let’s look at critical follow-up care.

Caring for Peonies After Planting

Caring for Peonies After Planting

While peonies are generally low maintenance once established, they do require some care, especially in their first year after planting:

Water Regularly

Ensure consistent moisture for newly planted peonies by watering 1-2 times weekly if rain is lacking. Established plants are relatively drought-tolerant.

Apply Mulch

Spread 2-3 inches of shredded bark, compost, leaves, or other organic mulch over the soil around plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Stake Plants

Insert stakes next to plants and loosely tie stems to provide support in their first year as their root systems develop.

Prune Dead Foliage

Cut back dead leaves or collapsed stems in the fall to keep plants looking tidy. But leave any healthy stems and foliage to nourish the plant.

With proper follow-up care, your newly planted peonies will flourish. Now, let’s look at some common questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I cut back peony foliage in the fall?

Leave any healthy foliage in place through winter to return nutrients to the roots before cutting it back in spring. But do remove entirely dead and collapsed stems in the fall.

How long do peonies take to bloom?

Planted tubers usually bloom within their first year. However, bare root plants may take 2-3 years to reach maturity and flower at their full potential. But the wait is worth it!

Do deer or other animals eat peonies?

Luckily, peonies are rarely bothered by deer, rabbits, or rodents since their foliage has a bitter taste, and deer tend to avoid plants with strong scents. Their toxicity also deters grazing.

How long do peonies live?

With proper care, peonies can live 50 years or longer. Some varieties may need division every 10-15 years to maintain vigor, but the lifespan is typically many decades.

Should peonies be cut back for winter?

No, allow peony stems and foliage to remain over winter to nourish the plant’s roots before new growth emerges in spring. Then, cut back dead material in early spring.


Adding peonies to your garden promises many years of spectacular spring blossoms. Follow this guide for planting peonies in spring, planting location, soil preparation, plant selection, planting techniques, and follow-up care, and your peonies will indeed thrive and delight for decades to come. Managing a garden brings numerous benefits, including the joy of nurturing peonies, one of the most rewarding perennials with their extensive root systems, lush flowers, divine fragrance, and longevity. Plant some this spring and enjoy their beauty for many seasons ahead!

Bruce Curtis

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