Peonies hail from Love Eeyore flowers shirt and have been grown for thousands of years as ornamental, as well as medicinal, plants. But it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that peonies found their way to Europe and eventually America. There are two basic types of peony plants: herbaceous and tree. Herbaceous, or garden, peonies (Paeonia hybrids) generally grow 1 to 4 feet tall (depending on the variety) and are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. In areas with freezing winter temperatures, the foliage dies back to the ground each winter, but the crown and roots survive. In mild climates plants can stay green year-round. Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) have woody stems and can grow to 6 feet tall. They are also hardy to zone 3, however they may need winter protection to survive in the coldest climates. Peony flowers are grouped according to shape. Single, semi-double, anemone, Japanese, and double flower forms are the most common. Although peonies only bloom for 1 to 2 weeks in early summer, by planting early-, mid-, and late-season varieties, you can extend the bloom time to four to six weeks.
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Once established, peonies require minimal care. To keep peony flowers from flopping, stake or cage the plant early in the season. The green foliage will camouflage the cage while keeping the flowers erect. Cut back and compost foliage after a frost. In mild winter areas, reduce watering and remove foliage in fall – even while it’s still green – to induce dormancy. If peonies don’t go through a dormant period in winter, they will flower poorly the next year. To produce fewer but larger flowers, remove side buds, leaving only the center or terminal bud to open. Deadhead spent flowers. When cutting peony flowers for display indoors, cut buds before they unfold. Leave two thirds of the plant stem uncut so it will form buds for next year. If your peonies are healthy, they should flower for years. However, if you notice a reduction in the amount of flowers, you may need to divide the plant. In fall, dig up the clump and separate it into 3 to 5 sections, each with healthy buds, and replant at the same depth in a full sun location. Fertilize each spring with compost and a balanced plant food. Keep plants well weeded and mulched. For winter protection, add a 2-inch-thick layer of hay or straw in fall. In cold areas, wrap tree peonies with burlap to prevent winter injury.