Because all types of peonies can be incredibly long-lived, yet relatively care-free perennials, its important to start with vigorous nursery stock and site a new planting in an area where it will thrive.
Step-by-step for preparing a new peony bed for fall planting in a law or unimproved area:
If you are planting peonies in a new garden area, choose a location with 6 hours of sun (tree peonies will also grow well in dappled shade, but if you are planting herbaceous or intersectional ponies, select a full sun location.) The other basic requirement for peonies is a well drained site.
We add 2 lbs each of the following soil-building amendments to our planting site sized 3′ x 3'
Azomite– (long term minerals and trace minerals)
- Hi-Cal (Calcitic) Lime- For calcium, this also raises the pH of the soil, 6.5-7.0 is ideal for peony growing. This is needed if your native soil is acidic.
- Colloidal Phosphate- For short-term calcium boost and slow-release phosphorus, very important for bloom production.
- Greensand- For improving soil texture and adding potassium.
We add 1 lb. each of the amendments listed below for building high levels of humus:
These amendments can be found through suppliers like Espoma and Dr. Earth which package for the home gardener, sold online or locally at well stocked garden centers.
Mix all of your amendments together and spread them over a 3′ x 3′ area.
Rather than rotor-till a new planting area, we like to smother the grass and unwanted plants. By not disturbing the soil, we leave the complex web of beneficial bacteria and fungi intact.
One large wheel barrow full of finished compost achieves two goals, it adds organic material to the planting area and will also smother the unwanted grass.
Top off the compost pile with a wheelbarrow load of mulch. We have lots of old wood chips around the garden, so we use these. You might also consider using grass clippings or leaves.
Allow the soil amendments, compost and mulch to sit over the next few months. In the fall, when you are ready to plant, pull back the mulch and compost from the center of the pile and plant your peony there. All of the good compost and mulch will nourish the peony and get it off to a great start.
If your garden area has better soil and has been worked before, a simpler method which will yield good results would be to add 1- 2 lbs Azomite and one wheelbarrow load of compost to the future planting area sized 3′ x 3′. If you know your soil is acidic, add 1-2 lbs. of ground limestone. Allow this to sit and ‘stew’ for a few weeks if posssible and in early fall your soil will be ready for planting.