Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Spring Posies

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Usually I’m not a showy flower type of girl.  I often gravitate to the more natural gardens and have learned to appreciate the subtle beauty found in many of our native wildflowers.  But there is something about the saucer-sized blooms of peonies that I cannot resist.  The peonies at The Arboretum are about to bloom, and I am eager to see their many colors throughout the gardens!

For a quick peony review, read below.


Nomenclature.  Peonies are in the genus Paeonia and in the family Paeoniaceae.  Previously, peonies were classified in the family Ranunculaceae (along with hellebores and anemones).

Planting.  It is best to plant in the fall before the ground freezes.  Spring planting is also an option, but not as desirable since the plants focus on leaf development instead of root establishment.  Planting depth is very important for healthy plants, with the eyes of the plants two inches below planting surface.

Planting Location.  Peonies prefer sunny and well-drained locations.   Heavy or very sandy soils should be amended with compost or replaced with garden soil. 

Fertilizing.  Peonies need very little fertilization, and in fact, over fertilized plants will not bloom as well.  Use low-nitrogen if fertilizer if necessary.

Flowering.  Often it takes three years for peony plants to become fully established.  Early blooms will be true to color but significantly smaller and fewer buds.  Many stems will produce a main bud as well as lateral buds around the base of the main bud.  For larger blooms, remove the lateral buds.

Disease.  Botrytis is one of the common peony diseases.  Symptoms can include shoot dieback in the spring or brown buds and brown spots on the leaves.    Wet spring weather is often a culprit, as the disease spores spread by water and wind.  To help prevent infection, make sure to provide proper air circulation as well as remove all spent foliage in the fall.

If you are also a peony lover, I encourage you to attend Jolene Rosauer’s Garden Gallery and Open House on the weekend of June 6-7th from noon to 5:00 p.m. each day.  You’ll have the opportunity to tour Jolene’s garden filled with over 55 peony bushes as well as “shop for really cool stuff.”  The address is 801 10th Street in Grundy Center, IA.

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

May 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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