Bareroot peonies can be planted in spring or fall. The plants are not frost tender, so they can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before your frost free date in the spring or after your first frost in the fall. Your Peony roots want to be planted within a day or two of when you receive them. If you can't plant them right away, store them someplace dark and cool, like the basement. You can soak your Peony root in room temperature water for about 2-4 hours to re-hydrate it before planting. Now dig a hole about twice as large as your root (space roots around 2 ft apart), and mix in some compost if you can before re-filling the hole so that your root sits at the correct depth. You should be able to see a couple of reddish 'eyes' - these are the first growing parts, and you want to plant your root with those eyes pointing up. Now - this is important - you have to plant it at the correct depth or it will not flower. The eyes at the top of the root should be covered by ½” - 2” of soil. Now compress the soil around it, and give it a nice long drink of water. If you have super cold winters you can mulch the area a bit. Now sit back and wait for your life-long plant friend to make its appearance!
Peonies will live for over 100 years, so let's find the right spot for them. They love morning sun and afternoon shade. They are not picky about soil, but good soil is always better. Regular water during the growing season will result in more and bigger blooms.
Peonies will bloom for just a couple of weeks, and picking the blooms will not encourage more - you just get what you get. We recommend that you do not pluck the blooms for the first couple seasons. If you are very disciplined you can cut off the buds the first year before they bloom so that the plant will put all of its energy in growing strong roots. Varieties with large full blooms will need some support to not flop over - most hardware stores will sell a little round trellis that works great. Wind can knock over the blooms also, so best to plant them somewhere protected from strong winds. In the late fall the foliage will die back, and you can pull it away - the peony will send up all fresh foliage the following spring.
As with most plants, the symptoms of under-watering and over-watering are similar: yellow/brown, wilted leaves. It’s important to check the soil regularly before you water. The best way to do that is to stick your finger in it. (All the way. Don’t be scared.) The dirt should be moist. If it’s dry and crumbly, increase your watering schedule. If it’s quite wet (and maybe even stinky), water less. If leaves become coated in a white film, you may have powdery mildew or another type of fungus. Rinsing the leaves regularly with water helps fight off fungi as well as applying a neem oil spray (it’s amazing stuff; natural insecticide too). Water leaves and apply neem oil at night or when the plant is in the shade to avoid burning the leaves. Ants love peonies, but don’t spray them away! They only take a little nectar and fight off the other bad bugs that eat the buds and leaves. They are your peony’s guardians. Coexist.