One of the great things about living in a small town is that everyone “almost” knows everyone, and if someone looks familiar to you, they find it easy to approach you.
I have been writing for The Squamish Chief almost 10 years and because my picture graces the column, people recognize me and love to ask their garden queries. I thought I would spend a moment today answering one of the most-asked questions: Why won’t my peonies bloom?
The long and short of it is that peonies can be pretty fussy. If you lucked out and planted them correctly and in a spot they approve, they will bloom and bloom without fail. From the number of times I receive this question, I would hazard a guess to say that many people are not so lucky.
Peonies need a lot of sun to produce blooms. Six hours a day is the optimum amount, and even more is preferable. Often when the garden hasn’t fully matured in the spring, peonies will get enough sun and make buds, then other plants grow up around them and shade them for more of the day or a tree nearby leafs out. This disruption in sunlight will also limit the plants’ chance to bloom.
Peonies are also fussy about the depth that you plant them. When a peony doesn’t bloom, it’s usually because it was buried too deeply. Peonies like to be planted quite shallowly. They only want an inch to an inch and a half to cover their “eyes” and if you bury them too deeply, they will never bloom.
If you think your peony is planted too deeply and don’t want to set it back by moving it, try scratching away the soil from the base of the stems. Be gentle. You will probably be able to see the crown where the stems grow out at the surface of the soil. It should be at the surface with only a light covering of soil. If it is only slightly below, you can carefully pull the soil away from the plant, uncovering it.
Peonies are fussy in the sense that if you start out with a small plant and root, it takes its own sweet time to get established and bloom – often a few years. Also, if you have been moving plants around, a peony will often sulk about adjusting to a new spot and not bloom the following year.
Sometimes in an old or new garden where the soil does not get regularly amended, peonies will not thrive. This is usually just a case of improving the soil with organic matter, or feeding it early in the spring with an organic fertilizer.
Also, peonies don’t like excessive moisture around their roots and need to be planted in well draining soil; they do poorly when waterlogged.
Peonies are beautiful and long-lived perennials, and once you are armed with the correct information, they will grow and flourish for years.