How to grow Peony lactiflora or Chinese Peony in your pot and garden
A lovely showy herbaceous peony with huge double blooms of pale pink and creamy white petals, some with a delicate red picotee edge. An excellent specimen plant for the middle of a border.
How to grow and care Peony lactiflora
When planting peonies, generous spacing and good air circulation are crucial because overcrowding encourages the spread of diseases—3 to 4 feet between plants is recommended. Keep them well away from other large plants that might compete for nutrients. Because Chinese peony requires a winter chill in order to set flower buds, they should be planted so the root crown is quite close to the surface—no more than 2 inches deep. If planting a nursery-grown specimen, make sure not to bury the crown deeper than it was growing in the pot.
The flower heads of peonies are large and heavy so they tend to flop over, especially after it rains. If you do not want to buy special peony rings you can use wooden or light metal stakes and twine to make your own support.
The only other regular maintenance peonies require is the removal of the foliage and thorough fall cleanup. During the growing season, for a neater appearance and to prevent the spread of disease, remove any diseased leaves.
For the best bloom, garden peonies need full sun with at least six hours of daily sunlight. The only exception is in warmer climates where you can plant them in partial shade to protect them from the midday heat.
Peonies can grow in many different soils as long as the soil is fertile and well-drained. Avoid wet locations where water pools. If the soil is sandy or high in clay, add organic matter but not manure, as this can encourage botrytis disease. When adding amendments to the soil, make sure to mix them in deeply. Peonies prefer a relatively neural soil pH, but will tolerate mild acidity.
Generally speaking, Chinese peonies do not require extra watering in regions with regular rainfall. Their water needs are the highest in the spring and fall so if there are dry conditions during those crucial months, keep the soil evenly moist by watering them slowly and deeply as needed. About 1 inch of water weekly, through a combination of rainfall and irrigation, is the standard.
Temperature and Humidity
Peonies are perennials for cool climates—many varieties will survive temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They need winter chill to induce the full dormancy that resets the growth buds. Chinese peonies thrive in zones 3 to 7, and the northern part of zone 8 can also support peonies.
Chinese peonies don’t do well in strong heat and humidity, especially during the bloom period. In regions with warm, humid summers, one workaround is to select varieties that bloom earlier, before the onset of the summer heat.
Chinese peonies generally don’t need fertilizer unless the soil is lacking in nutrients. In poor soil—or if the plants are not flowering adequately—apply a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as bulb fertilizer, after the bloom period and again in the late summer, around the dripline of the plants.
But it’s best not to feed peonies at all until there’s evidence of need—such as plants that don’t flower even though all other conditions are favorable.
Peonies are a standard of the perennial border, both as specimens and in groups. They are long-lived perennials, and are effective as accents or herbaceous hedges along fences, sidewalks, driveways or walls. Flowers are extremely showy, and foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season either alone or as a frame or backdrop for other perennials.