Peonies are classic garden flowering plants that require little care and attention. They generally blossom during the early summer months and can bloom for a long time.
They are aesthetically pleasing and add a delicate aura to any garden they are grown in. These flowers love the sun and leave an unforgettable fragrance lingering around them. Well-fed and fertilized peonies bloom better and add some glorious color to your garden.
We have put together a guide to help you understand how you can fertilize your peonies. We have also curated a list of the best fertilizer for peonies options for you.
Few Basic Facts About Peonies
To fertilize your peonies well, you will first need to know a few facts about them. Read ahead to find out.
- The lifespan of Peonies: These flowers are perennial and come back to bloom each year. Some live for as long as 100 years if they are cared for well.
- Blooming Season: You will find peonies blooming during the late-spring to early-summer period. Some peonies may be of a late-blooming variety to extend the season longer.
- Types of Peonies: There are a variety of peonies available. You are most likely to plant tree peonies, herbaceous peonies, or Itoh peonies in your garden. These may include single, double, bomb or other varieties.
You now know some basic facts about the plant that will keep you more informed about them as you fertilize.
General Care for Peonies
When you have planted young peonies, they take a few years to establish themselves before they are well-adjusted to their environments. You won’t need to dig and divide the peonies each year.
They are relatively easy to care for and require little intervention on your part. Here are a few things you should know about caring for your peonies.
Exposure for Peonies
For healthy peonies, you will have to expose them to full sunlight for at least 6 hours each day. Place them in garden areas that allow this exposure. It will promote better flowering in the plant as well.
You may also want to avoid too much exposure to wind. Peonies tend to have heavy flowers. Hence, it is best to plant them in areas where they are shielded from heavy winds.
Soil for Peonies
Peonies are hardy plants and don’t require a specific soil to grow in. Once you plant them, following good care practice with annual fertilization, regular watering, and mulching can keep them healthy.
We have discussed all of these below.
Peonies require a cold winter climate so that they can be forced into dormancy. It allows for better blooming after the chilling periods. Peonies often fail to bloom in warmer temperatures where they are not chilled.
Conditions While Planting
To begin with, ensure that the soil you are using to plant your peonies is well-prepared. You can add some compost and mix it through so that the plants have an excellent foundation to grow in.
The soil also needs to be well-drained. Ensure that there is good air circulation around the plant as well. This helps the plant avoid Botrytis, which is a serious disease that peonies face. Botrytis is present in the soil and presents an issue when the weather is very cool and wet.
The disease presents itself as blackened stems and buds. You may also notice the root of the plant rotting due to this disease. If you do find this, you will have to cut off the affected area and dispose of it. This will prevent it from spreading to other peonies around the plant.
The best way to tackle this problem is to avoid it. By planting the peonies in well-drained soil, you can prevent Botrytis.
Your peonies will need special attention and support when they are blooming. If your peonies are double or bomb-style types, they are likely to require this support. It is because they can get very heavy and waterlogged.
You can purchase or make support for the plant. Place them during the earlier stages of the growing season. The plant will not be higher than a few inches at this point. It is challenging to support peonies once they are in bloom.
Hence, the earlier you place the supports, the better it is for the plants.
Do note that peonies do not require dividing. If you must divide them as a gift for a friend, you can complete this process during the fall.
Peonies have roots that are close to the surface of the soil. Hence, it can make weeding around the plant rather tricky. The best option is to control weed growth around your peony. Mulching is the right way of doing this.
Organic Materials for Mulching
Using organic mulching materials discourages the growth of weeds around the peony plant. They also help conserve moisture and decompose into the soil within a year or two. You can use pine needles, straw, peat moss, and shredded bark as a mulch.
It is best to avoid stone mulch as they add no additional nutrients to the soil.
How to Add Mulch?
Here is the process for adding mulch to the peonies. For herbaceous peonies, you can place the mulch a couple of inches apart from the plant’s crown. As for tree peonies, put the mulch about an inch or two away from the stems.
There are many benefits to this. It prevents any moisture from gathering close to the bark of the plant. The excess water can make the plant susceptible to diseases and may even result in death.
During the first winter, the mulch that you add should not heave the peony plant’s roots. Hence, it is best to add evergreen boughs and straws. You can also mound up the soil. During springtime, there will be new growth. You should remove the mulch during this time.
What to Avoid in the Mulch?
When you use mulch around your peonies, there are a few materials you should avoid. The first item to avoid is wood chips. These are not beneficial for peonies. Yes, this an excellent mulching material around shrubs and trees.
However, it is best to avoid it for any perennial bed like your peonies. You should not use manure to mulch your peonies either. Manure can take a long time and high temperatures to compost.
Other materials, like the ones highlighted above, make for better compost.
Seasonal Care for Peonies
Your peonies will require different care conditions through the season. Here is how you can care for your peonies through the seasons.
You may have spring rains adding moisture to your plants. If you don’t, you will have to regularly water the plants well. You will also have to add aged manure and compost to the soil at this point.
At this point, you will have to pay attention to any botrytis blight that may become problematic. Remove it immediately if you see any signs. You may also have to add plant supports to train the peonies.
You will have to add about an inch of water to the soil each week. It will keep the peonies thriving.
You can leave the peonies as they are at this point. You may also want to divide the plants. Any new plants can be mulched salt marsh hay once the ground freezes.
How to Water Your Peonies?
Whether your peonies are herbaceous, trees, or hybrid varieties, it is necessary to water them right. It will help them bloom and survive. You will have to ensure that the peonies are planted in a location where there will be no standing water at any time.
The right time to water your peonies well is spring. During this time, there will be no natural rainfall. The depth of moisture must be maintained well. Ensure that the 4 to 6 inches of soil on top are moist.
To make this possible, you can irrigate the soil lightly about twice a week. Standing water is harmful to the plant and must be avoided.
You can add organic mulch or bark around the soil in which the peonies are growing. It can be about a 2-inch layer of the same. Make sure that there is a little space between the mulch and the stems of the peony.
Mulch can slow down evaporation in the soil and retain moisture as well.
Once the flowers have wilted and died through the summer, you will still have to continue watering them every week. You can add about an inch of water every week. This will ensure that the foliage remains healthy and vibrant throughout the summer.
How to Feed Peonies?
Feeding peonies is a routine spring task that can turn into an enjoyable one. Even though peonies don’t require too much care, a boost of nutrition can only add to their delightful blossoms.
Read ahead as we discuss how you can fertilize your peonies.
Nutrients Required in a Peony Fertilizer
The fertilizer requirements for peony are very similar to those used by roses. Any perennial flower fertilizer or rose fertilizer should do the job well. Many people also use bone meal as a fertilizer for peonies.
If you prefer a mineral-based fertilizer, you can opt for one with phosphate rock dust. When it comes to peonies, it is best to pick an organic fertilizer. It should be lower in nitrogen. The degree of phosphorous should be high.
The nitrogen should be low so that peonies have more flowering growth and little vegetative growth. Further, excess nitrogen can lead to the burning and death of the plant in extreme cases.
Look for products that have been the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) listed as appropriate for organic growing. Do note that you should only apply each fertilizer as per the instructions given by the manufacturer.
It is better to err on the side of less than more. A good N-P-K ratio is 5-10-10.
When to Fertilize Peonies?
The best time to fertilize peonies in spring. During this time, the peonies would have grown about a foot in height. At this point, you will also notice that the leaves on the plant will be unfurling.
You can also wait until the first flower buds start to appear. It is an excellent time to fertilize your peonies. You can even feed them twice a year if you prefer. Late summer and early fall is a good time if you pick this option.
How to Fertilize Peonies?
The best way to fertilize your peonies is by using a slow-release fertilizer. You can opt for a granular fertilizer for the same. These can easily be sprinkled on the ground above the soil around the ground.
The idea is to allow the nutrients to percolate into the soil. Hence, the roots develop to be strong and healthy. To begin, you will have to sprinkle the organic fertilizer around the peony stems. You can do this in a ring-like pattern.
Applying Fertilizer to Peonies
You will first have to add some organic materials or compost to the bottom of the hole where the peony is growing. At this point, you can mix a 10-10-10 fertilizer with bone meal to increase the phosphate content.
The right values of nitrogen and phosphate can add to the vibrancy of your flowers.
You can then apply an organic compost layer that is 2 to 3 cm thick. You can use this around the base of the peony. This step will help you prevent any weeds and keep the moisture content up. The bacteria break down the organic matter in this compost.
This is converted into nutrients that ensure the efficient and vibrant growth of the peonies. Never add the fertilizer directly to the plant. Instead, add it around the plant’s drip line. Adding it directly can cause the plant to burn.
Quantity to Use
In general, about a quarter to half a cup of fertilizer is necessary for a single peony plant. Spread this about six inches apart from the peony plant’s crown. The process will provide the right nutrition for blooming peonies.
Over-Fertilizing Your Peonies
Yes, it is possible to over-fertilize your peony plants. There are a few ways in which you will know if you have over-fertilized a peony plant. For starters, you will find that your peonies produce lesser blooms than they did earlier.
Further, you may also notice the peony’s leaves turn yellow. They may also wither away. It is likely to happen if there is too much nitrogen content in the soil.
How Often Should You Fertilize Peonies?
Do note that a single application of fertilizer per year is enough for peonies. If necessary, you can fertilize them twice a year during the growing season. The first time you fertilize them is when the blooms are about the size of a coin.
You can fertilize it once more three months after the first time you fertilized the peonies. If you are using a fertilizer that is water-soluble, you can go ahead and use it as you irrigate during the early spring season.
You can add this once every two weeks for the best results.
What Kind of Fertilizer Should You use for Peonies?
The key to a good fertilizer for peonies is a high phosphorus content and low nitrogen content. Well-cured manure, compost, and peat moss are good options for some splendid blooms.
Bone meal fertilizers that contain a good amount of phosphorous and potassium are also good options. These are macronutrients that are essential for good flower production and a strong root system on your peonies.
If you prefer, you can also use commercial synthetic fertilizers. Just ensure that the nitrogen content is low. We have also curated a list of some of the best fertilizers for peonies in the market below.
You can also take your pick from one of these.
Best Fertilizer for Peonies Reviews
Here are our reviews for the best fertilizer for peonies options.
1. J R Peters Inc 51024 Jacks Classic No.1.5 Blossom Boost Fertilizer
N-P-K Ratio: 10-30-20
The Blossom Booster has been designed to get more flowers and bright colors. It works very well on both indoor as well as outdoor plants. It is a good option for fertilizing your peonies. In addition to that, there are impatiens, begonias, marigolds, and geraniums.
The good part about this blossom boost fertilizer is that it feeds through the leaves and roots of the plant. It can also be used as a transplant solution. You can also go ahead and use it with fruits and vegetables.
Hence, it is safe enough to even fertilize edibles like broccoli and tomatoes. The nitrogen content is low as well. Hence, it will not lead to any excess foliage in tomato plants if you are growing them.
The fertilizer is also water-soluble. As you use it, there may be some visible white residue. It is due to the micronutrients. Hence, you won’t have to worry about this harming your plants.
As for the time period, try it once a week for a month. You can use this fertilizer in your container flowers as well. With usage, you will be treated to some of the biggest blossoms on your plants.
- Easy to use
- It can be used on edible plants well
- Leads to blossoming peonies
- May burn roses
2. Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus
N-P-K Ratio: 15-9-12
This Osmocote Plant Food is one of the best fertilizer for peonies options in the market. It is fortified with 11 essential nutrients that make it nourishing for the plants. You can use it with multiple plant varieties, including peonies.
Further, it works well across all working conditions, keeping your plants healthy and blooming. The fertilizer can feed your plants for six full months. You can go ahead and apply it to plants that are indoors or outdoors.
It can also be applied to potted plants. When you use it just as directed, the product comes with a no-burn pledge. As with other fertilizers, you should be careful not to overuse them.
Each granule of this fertilizer is covered with resin. It controls nutritional release so that the plant is well-nourished. The coating allows water to access the nutrients and dissolve them. During warmer periods, more nutrients are released.
Hence, the capsule reacts to various temperatures to regulate release. Once all nutrients are released, only the empty shell remains. To use these granules, you will have to sprinkle one scoop at a time. It is applicable for 4 square feet. You can then mix the granules into 1 to 3 inches of soil.
Following the addition of fertilizer, water your peonies regularly. You can reapply the fertilizer every six months for the best results.
- Appropriate nutritional release
- Capsule reacts to temperature
- Easy to store with a resealable bag
- Promotes flower and leaf growth
- Leaves capsules behind after each use
3. Burpee Organic Bone Meal Fertilizer
N-P-K Ratio: 6-8-0
For your growing peonies, bone meal can be the right fertilizer to get the nutrients into the plant. This Burpee Organic Bone Meal fertilizer comes with organic nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous that are vital to plant growth.
It aims at promoting vibrant blooms and strong roots. You will be treated to some pretty blooms and delicious vegetables when it is used with edibles. When used in the early-season, the fertilizer promotes the strong development of roots and healthy fruits and blossoms.
You will see these by harvest time. It also tends to enhance early growth. To get the best of this fertilizer, you can use it any time before harvest. The earlier you use it on young plants, the better it is for them.
It is because bone meal tends to break down gradually to slowly release nitrogen into the soil. Hence, it will not burn plants either. For this reason, it is appropriate for growing microgreens as well. It will not mold either.
It also helps young plants get stronger during the growing season. It is perfect for fall bulb planting as well. Hence, it can be used to enhance the growth of root crops as well. The fertilizer is also organic certified.
It has been Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) listed for organic gardening.
- Optimum nutrition for peonies
- Slow-release bone meal
- Great for growing plants
- Will not gather mold
- May attract cockroaches
4. Scotts Bulb Continuous Release Plant Food
N-P-K Ratio: 10-12-10
The Scotts Bulb plant food is known to promote colors on plants. Hence, it will feed your peonies and lend them some beautiful color for up to 2 months. It is very easy to use, as well. All you have to do is apply it directly to the soil and watch your peonies bloom.
You can use it during planting season to get the right nutrition into your peonies. During the flowering season, it assists in nourishing the new bulbs. During the fall season, the established bulbs are fed well.
Hence, they grow into beautiful blooms in the coming year. The fertilizer can feed up to 250 bulbs at a time for the specified 3-month duration. Hence, it offers good value for your money as well.
The fertilizer also emits very little smell, keeping your garden away from odor. In addition to peonies, you can use it on bluebells, crocus, and hyacinth. Since it is packed in the form of pellets, it is also easy to use and mix into the soil.
Some people even use it on edibles like banana plants. It also adds life to the bushes in your garden and is also used on magnolia trees. Hence, it is a versatile product that can be used in various plants.
- Easy to use
- It can be used with a variety of plants
- No unpleasant odor
- Great for bulbs
- May burn potted plants
5. Dr. Earth 707P Organic 8 Bud & Bloom Fertilizer
N-P-K Ratio: 3-9-4
With this fertilizer among your garden essentials, you will be able to provide the right nutrition to your peonies. You can go ahead and feed tubers, rhizomes, corms, and bulbs you like. Further, it is made of 100% natural and organic ingredients.
Hence, your plants will be kept away from any chemicals as they are being fed. The ingredients in this fertilizer are carefully curated to give the best nourishment to flowering plants.
It includes a blend of alfalfa meal, fishbone meal, mined potassium sulfate, and soft rock phosphate. You won’t find any chicken manure or sewage sludge in this fertilizer. Hence, it also contains no GMOs.
Among the ingredients are also seven strains of beneficial soil microbes. The fertilizer also contains ecto and endo mycorrhizae. It can feed your plants for several months. Hence, it is an efficient fertilizer that will require little effort on your part.
All of these powerful nutrients promote root establishment and consistent plant growth. The fertilizer does not promote a sudden spike or growth in the plant. You will notice that the blooms on the plant are bigger and the buds abundant as well.
The plant will also be left drought tolerant with better nutrient availability. Its performance will also be enhanced. Once you use this fertilizer, you won’t require any chemical fertilizers in your garden.
- Enhanced plant growth
- Promotes drought-resistance
- Made of natural and organic ingredients
- Can feed for many months
- The recommended amount is too strong for auto flowers
6. Scotts Super Bloom Water Soluble Plant Food
N-P-K Ratio: 12-55-6
This Scotts Super Bloom fertilizer is a good option for outdoor flowers and fruiting plants. It can also be used for flowers grown in containers. It serves as an excellent source of nutrition for peonies as well.
It feeds plants instantly and has to be used consistently for the best results. It has a high content of phosphorous so that plants can bloom well. You will have to feed your plants every 1 to 2 weeks with this fertilizer.
The plant food is water-soluble. You will have to add it to water before you feed the plants for instant nourishment. You can also add it to bed areas. If it is used just as directed, it won’t burn your plants.
To add this fertilizer to your plants, you can use a watering can or jug. Add just two teaspoons of the fertilizer to a gallon of water. Any more and your plants stand the risk of getting burned.
You can now apply this water around the plant’s base. Repeat this every 7 to 14 days, and you will see your plants bloom. Before you apply the fertilizer, make sure that the soil is already moist.
In addition to peonies, the fertilizer works well on begonias as well. You will be delighted to see your flowers thriving and blooming well. If you see any yellowing and browning on your plant, you may be adding a little too much fertilizer.
- Consistent blooms
- Easy to apply
- Rich in phosphorous
- Good for potted plants
- Very potent in dry soil
7. Miracle-Gro 1001921 Water Soluble Flower Food
N-P-K Ratio: 15-30-15
This fertilizer promotes some large and colored blooms. If you compare unfed plants to one fed with Miracle-Gro, you will see a significant difference between the two. The plant that has been fed will be healthier and more vibrant.
You will have to feed your plant once every 1 or 2 weeks for the best results from this fertilizer. You can go ahead and feed all blooming plants with this plant food. To feed your plants, you can use the Miracle Gro garden feeder or any watering can.
The fertilizer has high phosphorous content that further promotes better blooming. It works quickly and gives rise to some beautiful flowering plants in your garden. It is one of the best options for window boxes, containers, and any blooming perennial and annual flowers.
To use it, you will have to fill the feeder jar with the fertilizer. You can attach the feeder to the garden hose and water your plants. If you are using a watering can use one tablespoon for a gallon of water for outdoor plants.
If you are using the fertilizer on indoor plants, each gallon of water will require half a tablespoon of water. For good absorption, soak the soil around the plant before you add the fertilizer.
- Better blooms than non-fed plants
- It can be used with indoor and outdoor plants
- Plants get a direct shot of minerals
- Can be applied directly to moist soil
- Not the best for non-flowering stages of growth
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are a few of the popular questions about fertilizing peonies answered.
1. Are Coffee Grounds Good for Peony Plants?
It is best to avoid coffee grounds for your peonies. It is because coffee grounds are better suited for acid-loving plants like daffodils, rhododendrons, and azaleas.
2. Are Banana Peels Good for Peony Plants?
Yes, banana peels can be good for peonies. Some people mix eggshells and banana peels to make a natural fertilizer for perennial plants like peonies. They increase the potassium in the soil. However, it is best to add composted banana peels to the soil.
3. Are Tea Bags Good for Peony Plants?
Yes, you can use tea bags mixed into the soil as compost for peony plants. They release essential nutrients as compost. You can also use liquid tea or compost tea as options for your peonies.
4. What is the Lifespan of Peonies?
Peonies enjoy a long life and may live up to 100 years. These are hardy plants that require little care throughout their life. During this time, they bloom each year between May and late June.
5. Is Fish Fertilizer Good for Peonies?
Fish fertilizer is produced from fish emulsion, which includes liquid remains of fish that are commercially processed. It is an organic option that will fill your peonies up on nutrients. You can apply it when the buds begin to form to be treated to large blooms.
6. How Can Prevent Botrytis in Peonies?
To prevent Botrytis in Peonies, you will have to treat the plant with fungicide during early spring. Following this, you can continuously inspect the peonies and sanitize them carefully. You can also avoid any wet and dense mulches that can contribute to Botrytis.
Peonies are lush and vibrant perennial flowering plants that can bring any garden to life. Even with little care, they will not disappoint you. The flowers from the plant are cut and often displayed in beautiful bouquets that don’t fail to impress.
To boost their root growth and blooming, you can take the assistance of a fertilizer. Ensure that the fertilizer is low in nitrogen. You may also want to avoid any natural or commercial fertilizer that is highly acidic.
Pay attention to the mulching and water your peonies consistently. With this, you should have your peonies ready in a splendid garden or party-ready as a flower arrangement.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.