How to grow peonies and fill your garden with their big and beautiful blooms through spring and summer

An expert-approved guide to growing peonies to have their vibrant flowers adorning your garden for years to come

Peonies in the garden
(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

Who doesn’t love a display of big, luscious peonies either in their garden or as a centrepiece on the dining table? This much-loved flowering plant makes us fall in love with it every spring and summer during its flowering period, making us want to plant some in our own outdoor spaces. And if you feel the same way then you’ll need to know how to grow peonies.

In fact, this is the perfect time to learn as April and May are the perfect time when to plant peonies. But don’t worry if you miss this window, as autumn is still fair game for planting these vibrant flowers.

So if you want to learn everything there is to know about growing peonies, from what soil they prefer and how often you should water them, then this expert-approved guide is for you.

Peonies in the garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

How to grow peonies

While there are ways how to grow peonies in pots, they do grow better in the ground - and that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. ‘Peonies typically grow better in the ground rather than in pots, although they can be grown in pots as well. This is because peony roots need to spread out and establish themselves properly in the soil,’ says John Clifford, gardening expert at Gardenstone.

But first and foremost, you will need to get all your necessities in order.

What you’ll need

A vase of flowers with peonies on a mirror glass coffee table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Ensure the soil is right for the peony variety

As already mentioned, different peony varieties prefer different soil types so it’s important to find out what soil you have in the garden - don’t worry, there are tools for how to test your soil’s pH.

‘To grow peonies, they need well draining soil. All peonies prefer rich soil, while herbaceous peonies like neutral or slightly alkaline soil, and tree peonies can survive in more acidic soils. I recommend always checking exactly what type of soil your peonies need when planting, as getting the wrong soil could result in poor health of the plants and poor overall growth,’ John warns.

John Clifford
John Clifford

John Clifford is a director of Gardenstone, a leading garden landscaping retailer based in the UK. With over 30 years in the gardening industry and continual work alongside The National Trust, John has amassed an extensive range of gardening and planting knowledge. Alongside his younger son, John has built a strong reputation for Gardenstone as a trusted source for both high-quality garden products and expert gardening advice. 

How to plant peonies

Peonies in the garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

Once you’ve got the right soil and peony variety match, then you can get to planting your bare-root plant, unless you’re propagating your peonies from cuttings.

‘Peonies generally are started as bare-root plants, so once your order of peonies has arrived you should plant them straight away in order to maintain good health, either in the autumn or the spring,’ John says.

Petar continues, ‘When you’re planting them, don’t put them too deep in the ground because you won’t get good results. They’ll also benefit from an application of organic matter to their soil and a balanced fertiliser if you’re planting them in spring.’

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

Pink peonies growing in flowerbed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Don’t overwater your peonies

Once you’ve completed planting the peony bulbs, then you’ll need to water them regularly. But be careful as peonies are very susceptible to waterlogging.

‘They can’t thrive in waterlogged soil. Most importantly, newly planted peonies shouldn’t be overwatered because it will very likely cause the plant not to grow. Even if you’ve provided them with good drainage, overwatering and sitting in soggy soil can still cause damage. In general, they’ll require watering every 1 to 2 weeks and a little more often if the weather is hot and dry,’ Petar explains.

John adds, ‘Water when the top centimetre of soil is dry. And if your peonies start to wilt, then decipher whether you could be under or over watering them. Mature peonies can tolerate some drought, but obviously will always benefit more from frequent watering.’

FAQs

Where do peonies grow best?

Peonies grow best in a sunny spot. ‘Peonies need a fully sunny spot. I’d also recommend not planting them near any other trees and shrubs because peony plants don’t like competing for nutrients and light,’ Petar says.

Peonies in the garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Woolley)

Are peonies easy to grow?

Peonies are considered easy to grow, as long as you create the right conditions for them - provide a sunny spot, the right soil and don’t overwater them.

‘Peonies are very cold-hardy plants and once they get established, they can keep re-growing for a very long time. Some have even been known to keep re-growing and thriving for centuries. Typically, they aren’t picky plants, which will only need a carefully chosen sunny location and well-draining soil. However, keep in mind that they get stressed easily and don’t like being disturbed very much so you’ll need to be extra careful when you’re transplanting them in your garden. Despite that, once they are established, they’ll require very little maintenance,’ Petar concludes.

Now go on and fill that garden with those gorgeous bouncy peony blooms!

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.