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When you’re planning a flower garden, it’s important to know when your flowers will bloom, especially if you want to make sure that you have a continuous show of color in your garden beds. We’ve researched the subject of peonies and found out some interesting things about their bloom time to share in this post.
Peonies bloom from late spring through early summer for a period of six to eight weeks. The blooms themselves only last for seven to 10 days.
There are a lot of factors that can determine when your peony plant will bloom. Keep reading for all the details so you can grow a beautiful flower garden full of amazing color all season long.
What Influences Bloom Time in Peonies?
The exact timing of the blooms and length of bloom season depend on a few things:
- Species of peony – Tree, woodland, herbaceous or intersectional (the Itoh hybrid)
- The cultivar of herbaceous peony – Early, midseason or late variety
- Local climate – Peonies bloom longer in cooler climates, and the timing of blooming depends on the climate in your area
Tips for Extending the Bloom Time
The main species of peonies are:
- Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)
- Herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – the common garden or Chinese peony
- Woodland peony (Paeonia japonica) – also an herbaceous species but distinct from the common garden peony that is what the term herbaceous peony usually refers to
- Intersectional (the Itoh hybrid)
The woodland peonies are the first to bloom in early spring. They’re followed about a week later by the tree peonies. One to two weeks later the herbaceous peonies start to bloom. Although the blossoms themselves only last seven to 10 days, you can extend the bloom season by planting cultivars that bloom at different times: early, midseason, and late. That way the blooms can continue for four to six weeks.
The intersectional peonies, which are a hybrid cross between tree and herbaceous peonies, start blooming near the end of the time the herbaceous varieties are blooming. Since the buds don’t all open at the same time on the intersectionals, they can continue blooming for up to three weeks.
One thing to keep in mind when planning your garden is that peonies don’t like to be moved and don’t transplant well. If you do end up moving them, they won’t bloom again for another two to three years.
To sum up, if you have all four species in your garden – woodland, tree, herbaceous and intersectional – you can have peonies blooming for eight weeks or more!
The Role of Local Climate
Peonies do best in zones 3-8, although some cultivars can live and do well in zones 2 or 9. They bloom after the last frost and when daytime temperatures are 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peonies bloom longer in cooler climates. Of course, if you live in a warmer climate, there’s not much you can do about it unless you want to move!
Where you live also affects when your peonies begin blooming. The bloom season is still the same length, it just starts and ends at a different time depending on your local climate.
A Trick for Extending the Bloom Season
One way to extend the time you have blooms is to cut your peonies in the bud stage and refrigerate them, then take them out whenever you want a bouquet! That won’t help the bloom time in your garden, of course, but you can continue to enjoy their beauty and fragrance for weeks.
To store them in the refrigerator, cut them when the buds are starting to show color and are soft. Strip the leaves off the stem and wrap them completely in clear plastic wrap and seal both ends. Lay them flat in the refrigerator. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three months.
When you’re ready for a bouquet, cut off the stem end and place it in lukewarm water in a cool place until it’s rehydrated. Their vase life is about one week.
Do Peonies Bloom All Summer Long?
Unfortunately, no, peonies don’t bloom all summer long. Intersectional varieties bloom after the herbaceous varieties and the bloom time can extend for up to three weeks since their buds don’t all open at the same time. If you want to have peonies in bloom all summer, you will need to plant varieties that come into bloom at different times.
Do Peonies Bloom in Their First Year?
Most sources say peonies don’t bloom the first year after planting. It usually takes two or up to three years before they bloom when planted in the fall, longer if planted in the spring.
However, in their book “American Horticultural Society Northeast SmartGarden Regional Guide,” published in 2003, authors Rita Pelczar and Trevor Cole say, “Planted with the crown buds 1-3 in (2.5-8 cm) below soil level, they should bloom the following year.”
When Do Peonies Bloom in Different Parts of The Country?
Here’s an idea of when peonies bloom in different parts of the country:
- California – tree peonies bloom from late February to early or mid-March; herbaceous varieties mid-May to early June; intersectionals bloom in early May
- Texas – tree peonies bloom from early February to late March; herbaceous varieties begin to bloom around April 1st
- Michigan – herbaceous peonies bloom late May to mid-June; tree peonies bloom in late April to early May
- Massachusetts – mid-May through June
Peonies need a winter chill to bloom and it’s best if the daily temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least six weeks.
In zones 8 and 9, plant only early and midseason varieties of herbaceous peonies as it will be too hot for the late bloomers by the time they’re ready to bloom. Tree peonies do better than herbaceous varieties in hotter areas.
What About Ants?
You may have heard – or seen – that peonies can attract ants once they begin to bloom. This is true! But that’s a good thing. The ants are attracted to the nectar and in their attempts to get at it, they help the buds to open. So essentially, they’re helping you have the blooms you want!
Not only that, but they keep harmful bugs away. So ants are your friends when it comes to your peony blooms.
Peonies in Your Garden
Peonies bloom early to begin the spring and summer flowering season, they can last for more than 100 years (longer than the gardener!), and they don’t like to be moved, so they make a good foundation for your garden plan. They’ll reward you well with many years of fragrant beauty.