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Peonies Care, Peonies and Ants, & My 3 Favorites

Peonies care: how to get the most blooms, what to do about peonies and ants, & three no-fail, colorful planting suggestions. 

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. I’ve said many times before that I am not a master gardener, and I’m certainly not a peony expert. I have, however, learned a few things that have helped my peonies flourish, so that’s what I’m sharing today. 

Peonies care: how to get the most blooms

Peonies 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 about three years to produce blooms. The first thing to do for beautiful blooms is to make sure your bushes get the proper amount of sun. Peonies thrive in zones 3 – 8, and need at least six hours of sun per day. Most peonies need cold winter months to recharge, so areas below zone 8 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

Peonies and Ants

Here is everything I know about peonies and ants!

  • The ants don’t hurt the peony buds. It’s not proven, but some 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 the bud begins to open, the ants leave. So if you are worried about bringing ants into the house after harvesting your blooms, there is no need to worry. True story: I have never seen an ant after bringing peonies in from the garden.
  • If you are still worried about bringing ants into your home, gather your peony stems together, (while still outside,) hold them upside down, and 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!

Update: a few readers commented that they do have ants on their peony blooms. They suggest dunking the blooms in water for a few minutes, or holding the blooms under running water (like your hose.) Then give them a good shake. 

dianthus and peonies in garden with rock border

Planting Suggestions

The following are peonies that I have personally grown, and that have done well in my zone. I live in Ohio, in planting zone 6. We used to be considered zone 5, but in 2012 the zones were re-accessed, and northern Ohio was moved to zone 6.

white peonies in garden

Paeonia ‘Jan Van Leeuwen’
A round bloom, with beautiful white petals and a yellow center. 

Paeonia ‘Kansas’
A bright magenta red, with big blooms that smell divine.

peonies and mint in pitchers

Paeonia ‘Elk Grove’
A classic peony that blooms a little later, with giant light pink blooms.
(I never got out to take pictures of the
light pink peonies in the garden.
Maybe next year!)

I know this has nothing to do with peonies, but I want to show you my bucket of mint. Late last summer, I moved the galvanized buckets containing my herbs out to the garden to get them off the new patio. I did nothing else with them, and they sat there all winter. In late spring, I noticed that the mint was growing. 

garden with dianthus herbs peonies shed

It grew, and then it grew some more. In no time at all, the entire bucket was filled with the most beautiful mint. I have no idea why it survived the winter. My guess is that because this past winter was so mild, it never died completely down. We got hardly any snow at all, and our temps were above normal. In its new location, the mint also gets quite a bit more sun. 

Update: I never had mint survive in my tubs when they were on our deck. I did know it was considered a perennial, but I have never had it return. So that’s why I was pleasantly surprised!

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galvanized bucket filled with mint in garden

The end of the garden that’s opposite the peonies is rather sad. Nothing is blooming yet, and it’s quite bare. There are day lilies and purple coneflowers, so hopefully blooms will be coming. Another huge disappointment was that my allium did not bloom. The leaves came up from the bulbs and there were buds at one point. We then had a few very heavy frosts. The leaves turned yellow and the buds shriveled up. I think that may have been the reason they didn’t bloom. Although, like always, I’m not really sure! So once again, time will tell. 

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garden along fence with rock border

garden bundle graphic below post 600

34 Comments

  1. Barbara Murray says:

    Love peonies! Climate change is real! We kept Swiss Chard and Cilantro growing (and harvesting) all winter here in Northern Virginia under Season Extenders, that has never happened before this year.

  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. So thanks and I hope your alliums bloom next year!

  4. MEREDITH ENZONE says:

    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. Diania Abernathy says:

    5 stars
    Hi Ann….the bathroom is looking good. I bought myself a new peonie bush from Costco and the single bloom opened and it was lovely. Now my bush has red spots all over it.
    Help! 😜 if you can.

  6. Cecilia from Georgia says:

    Ann, just be thankful your mint is in buckets! I tossed out an almost dead little pot of mint into a flower bed and it flourished. It took me forever to pull/kill that mint and then this year it has returned with vigor😩.

  7. Jane Howard says:

    What are the bright pink flowers by your mint tub? They are so pretty!

  8. Très intéressant. Et belles photos.

  9. Diane Smith says:

    Hello Ann,
    Your garden is lovely! I planted my beautiful peony just about the time we got a Miniature Schnauzer puppy named Mocha. There were three blooms on the plant when I put it in the ground. She quickly removed the blooms and played with them. Then she stripped off the leaves: then I caught her several times chewing on the branches. She chewed them to the ground! I thought, “Well, that’s that.” But my peony came back, and has come back every year since. Mocha is gone now – we miss her so much – but I always think of her when my peony blooms!

    1. I loved your story about Mocha and your peonies. We too had a miniature schnauzer who “helped “ with our gardening. He passed away and we miss him tremendously. Summer planting and summer walks will never be the same.

      1. Diane Smith says:

        Thank you, Sheryl! Mocha wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she was the sweetest dog ever! My daughter still says, “My BFF…” when she talks about her.

        I’m wondering if you will get another Schnauzer. We did; a little white rescue named Misty. Sweet, oh, so neurotic!

  10. Jill pope says:

    Once the petals fall from the peonies, do I cut off that crown where it blooms from?

  11. Christine says:

    I live in zone 8B and decided to *try* growing one peony to see what happens. It does get cold here in winter, but not on a daily basis, so i’ll see what happens next spring. Right now it’s doing great.

  12. 5 stars
    Hi Ann;
    I always love your posts!
    Take care.

  13. Donna Requa says:

    Do you have drainage holes in your tubs? I’d love to plant mine but just don’t want to punch holes in them…. Thank you!

    1. Hi Donna,
      Yes…I drilled holes in my tubs. I hated to do it, but in the end, that’s what I bought them for so I decided to just do it. I know it’s hard!

  14. Hi Anne: I live in NW Ohio (BG) and this is the first year my mint has ever survived over the winter too! So did my oregano!

  15. What a lovely garden you have to enjoy.

  16. 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!

  17. Ann,
    Beautiful peonies!
    Ours are three years old and I anxiously awaited for blossoms.
    We had three. . .not very big and the ants. .. well, we just won’t go there!
    I have been considerable amount of reading on peonies.
    I do believe they need better soil, fertilizer twice a year ( instead of once)
    and perhaps some extra watering. . .there’s always next year.
    Love the mint in the galvanized tub!
    Yes! It quickly takes over an area if not contained!
    Beautiful post!
    Liken a healing balm to my soul!
    Pat

  18. Kathy Menold says:

    Ann, My Alliums did not do anything this year either. They started to come up then became rather stunted looking and dissapeared. I had only put them in last fall. I am blaming our excessive rainfall this spring or perhaps voles. So disappointed . The flowers are so pretty and the bulbs not cheap!. .
    Love Peonies and try to plant a few new ones every year. There is nothing like their fragrance.

  19. 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.

  20. Peonies are so pretty with their lacy edges and beautiful colors.I like the American flag on the side of you shed.

  21. Fran Wilson says:

    Mint is actually a perennial, at least it is where I live on the west coast of Canada, zone 7-8 depending on the winter. Be careful that it doesn’t escape that gorgeous tub or it will take over your whole garden!
    My peonies never get quite enough sun and it is usually cool and wet in June, so they are rarely spectacular. I love them anyway. The ants DO come in on the blooms though. I dunk the blossoms in a sink full of cool soapy water, then shake them off before arranging. Problem solved.

  22. claudia bassano says:

    Mint is a perennial herb
    The allium had too much rain/snow this year
    Try feed with bone meal/bulb tone for better bloom next year and fewer yellow leaves
    Your peonies look amazing!!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Claudia…thanks for the advice! We definitely didn’t get too much snow…we hardly got any. Our spring was pretty normal in regards to rainfall. Last spring was much, much worse and the allium looked beautiful. Hopefully they will come up next year!

  23. Hi Ann. Question regarding your post on lavender. I want to make the spray with distilled water. The lavender oil you featured was quite expensive. Do you have another less expensive recommendation for lavender oil? Thanks!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Terry…yes, here is a link to a less expensive oil. It’s a much larger amount, for less money. This is my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3hpU68h Enjoy making the lavender spray!

  24. 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!

  25. 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

  26. Hi Ann,
    I live on Long Island and we too are zone 6. I have grown mint in a pot for years and it comes back every year. Sometimes I move the pot under my covered patio, and sometimes I don’t. Mint is so hardy – and invasive – that I think it is determined to survive! I find every few years the plant needs to be divided as the center dies out, but a quick repotting up has it thriving again!
    Love the peonies!
    Susan

    1. claudia bassano says:

      Long Island zone update 2012
      Mine went from 6 to 7B!!

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

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