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Fall Peony Planting

PeoniesPlants are much like friends in that over time, you discover that some are more reliable than others. This doesn't mean that I value one plant more than another, after all who can resist the mercurial beauty of hybrid tea rose? But it is comforting to know that certain plants can always be counted on to perform.

One stalwart on my list of consistent performers is the peony. This old-fashioned perennial has never let me down. Prized for its beauty, fragrance and exceptional hardiness, most gardeners consider the peony to be Queen of the Perennials. And once established, they will bloom dependably every year for decades.

If you have been admiring those big beautiful peony blooms every spring and are wondering when to plant them, here is your reminder that fall is the perfect time! Bare root tubers are ready to ship from mail order companies or you can purchase them from your favorite garden center.

If you live in the South, try a variety that is tolerant of the warmer temperatures common in your area. I've had great success with 'Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Festiva Maxima' as far south as Georgia in zone 9.

Whatever variety you choose, the key to successfully growing peonies is to plant them just right. Choose a well-drained site in full sun and prepare the soil by adding well-rotted manure, compost and bone meal as needed.

The most common mistake that gardeners make is planting peonies too deep. This results in lots of foliage, but no flowers. Make sure the "eyes" on the tubers are pointing up and are covered with only about 2 inches of soil. You can plant them one inch below the soil if you live in warmer climates.

So this fall, just as the leaves begin to turn, plant a few peonies in your garden and you will forge a friendship that will last 50 years or more!