Mastering Peonies Care: A Complete How-To Guide

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Mastering peonies care: how to get the most blooms, how to keep them upright, 4 no-fail planting suggestions, and what do do about those pesky ants!

kansas peony bloom bouquets in kitchen sink

Peony season. Very short, but oh so wonderful.

If you are, like me, a fan of this very popular and beautiful flower, this is the post for you. Although I cannot claim to be a master gardener, I have learned a few things over the years that have helped my peonies flourish, so that’s what I’m sharing today.

kansas peony flowers in garden

How To Get The Most Blooms

  • Peony plants take their time when it comes to blooming, but if they are content with their location, they will bloom for dozens of years.
  • A new peony bush will take two to three years to produce blooms. But be patient…when you see your first blooms, I promise your heart will want to burst.
  • The first thing to do for beautiful blooms is to make sure your bushes get the proper amount of sun. Most cultivars do well in full sun, but some are content with as little as 6 hours per day. Make sure to check before purchasing your shrubs.
  • Plant your peonies in well-draining soil, and add some compost. Cover the roots with a layer of mulch, and use fertilizer after the plants have been in the ground for a month.
  • Peonies are perennials that thrive in US Hardiness Zones 3 – 8. Most peonies need cold winter months to recharge, so areas below zone 8 (geographically speaking) don’t have as much growing success.
  • Once a peony bush begins to bloom, it’s also super helpful to remove the wilted flowers. By removing the spent blooms, the peony bush has more energy to produce new blooms, instead of trying to keep the wilted ones alive.
kansas peonies in bud 2024

Peonies and Ants

  • The ants don’t hurt the peony buds. It’s not proven, and there’s some debate about this, but many gardeners believe that the ants help the bud-opening process. Supposedly they dine on the sugary liquid that leaks from the bud. So maybe ants on your peony buds are a good thing?
  • When we lived on Sutton Place, I never saw an ant outside on a peony flower, and I never saw any ants after I brought the cut flowers in. If you do see ants, gather your peony stems together, while still outside, and hold them upside down. Give them a very good shake. That should rid the blooms of most of the ants.
  • To go a step further, you can dunk your blooms in a bucket of water for about 15 minutes. That will rid your peonies of any ants. It was also suggested by a reader that you can simply hold your blooms under running water, like a hose, and then give them a good shake.
  • Plant your peony bushes in a spot that’s away from your house. That way you won’t be so aware of the ants, and maybe you can just ignore them!
kansas peony bloom

Favorite Peony Cultivars 

When we lived on Sutton Place, I had three types of peony bushes. I left them behind when we moved, and when May rolls around, I miss them desperately! This year my daughter brought me a big bouquet from her garden, so I’m featuring those as well as the peonies from my garden on Sutton Place. I would love to grow peonies here on Sugar Maple Court, but don’t have the ideal spot. Never say never though! Note: we live in Ohio, in US Hardiness Zone 6.

kansas peonies in garden


The dark pink peonies pictured above are ‘Kansas.’ I had three bushes, and they were the first peonies I ever planted. I absolutely adored them. It took two years to get big blooms, but it was definitely worth the wait!

Jan Van Leeuwen peonies in garden

‘Jan Van Leeuwen’

‘Jan Van Leeuwen’ has large white petals with a round yellow center. They are truly spectacular, and a very unique peony to grow. You can see them in my garden on Sutton Place, pictured above.

peony bloom bouquet and mint in white pitchers

‘Elk Grove’

I had two bushes with light pink blooms called ‘Elk Grove.’ I planted them just a couple of years before we moved, so I didn’t really get to enjoy them. If you are looking for a perfect pink peony, this is an excellent choice.

moon river peonies in mason jar

We’re uncertain about the specific cultivar of my daughter’s peonies. They are the prettiest, pale shade of pink with just a hint of lavender. After doing some research, we narrowed the choice down to ‘Moon River’ or ‘Sarah Bernhardt.’

Expert Tips
For Arranging

Use these tips & tricks for arranging peony flower bouquets to easily display this beautiful flower in your home. Includes how and when to cut, types of vessels, and more.

peony bloom bouquets in mason jar carrier

Tip For Sturdier Stems

  • Trim off all the tiny buds at the top of a stem, under the biggest bud. These baby buds are sometimes called side buds. This eliminates a stem with five or more blooms at the top. I had this problem, and for the first few years, most of my peonies were on the ground because the tops were so heavy. Clipping the extra buds really helped. This also allows the peony plant to focus all its energy on the large bloom at the top, rather than on opening multiple buds. Side buds are commonly seen on many of the old fashioned, heirloom peonies.
  • Use a peony support ring or even a tomato cage to keep your blooms off the ground. Install the ring or cage in early spring, so as the peonies come up, they naturally grow into the support. The foliage completely disguises the supports, and you won’t even know they are there.
garden tools with bow element

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  1. Thank you for your helpful tips and beautiful photos! I recently moved from my home of 27 years that had many varieties of gorgeous peonies that I planted a few years after we moved in. Oh, how I miss them! I have a new home in a new state with a shaded yard. I’m determined to find a proper spot and get some peony plants started so I can enjoy them in a few years.

  2. Mary Lou Holtzman says:

    5 stars
    Just beautiful! I am lucky enough to have inherited peonies that belonged to both my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother. I treasure them so much that anytime we have sold a home, it is written into the sales contract that I can return to take take them if the weather (in PA) isn’t suitable to transplanting at the time of the sale. Nothing smells sweeter than a bouquet of peonies.

  3. Christina Edwards says:

    Hi Ann!
    I love how you are a fly by the seat of your pants gardener. I am, too. Gardening can be a lot of time and effort & it’s frustrating when something doesn’t grow. But blogs like yours help so much. It’s the little tips that you & everyone else add that can make a real difference.


    I love your peonies. I can’t grow them because I don’t have enough winter, but as a trade I do get to have tropical plants… as I remind myself every single time I wish I could grow peonies. lol Anyway it’s one of my favorite flowers so I love your pics. Please keep posting them. Thank you.

  5. Nancy D White says:

    5 stars
    Love these little tips. Thank you for topics that are for the average gal who isn’t a horticulturist but loves flowers nonetheless!

  6. The magenta red peonies are so beautiful. My family grew pink peonies when I was growing up in Idaho. I live in northern California zone 9 and they don’t grow well here.

  7. Second City Mom says:

    Many, if not most, peonies will still be covered in ants after the blooms open. Martha’s Stewart recommends about 20 minutes upside down immersed in a bucket of water. I usually just hold them upside down under an outside faucet or hose briefly. It knocks off the majority of the ants which will mostly be clustered around the base of the flower. Peonies do not need ants to open.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I’m definitely not Martha Stewart…so thank you for the tips!

  8. Jean Windham says:

    Beautiful garden and thank you for information on peonies! They are one of my favorite flowers! I live in South Carolina and it gets really hot here! Thank you for sharing! Jean

  9. Beautiful Ann, I love peonies too and I too have been told the ants serve a purpose.