The Sarah Bernhardt Peony is the perfect flowering plant if you need something to spruce up your garden or yard. Its large light pink blooms are amazing to look at, which makes it among the favorites of gardeners.
And, considering that the plant will blossom year in and year out while living to as long as 100 years or more, you can expect it to pass it down to your kids.
Of course, let us not forget its lovely fragrance.
Together, these two features are what makes it very popular as a cut flower. And, you’ve probably seen in it many arrangements.
The plant itself grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. You do need to have some patience with it because it is a slow grower. As a result, it won’t flower much in its first year. But after a few years in, you’ll be glad that you waited because of its abundance.
Your Sarah Bernhardt Peony flowers during late spring and early summer. So it is somewhat of a mid-season bloomer. The blossoms get to between 3 to 5 inches each, which is what makes them spectacular to look at.
Sarah Bernhardt Peony Plant Care
Sarah Bernhardt Peony Light Requirements
The Sarah Bernhardt Peony does best under full sun. This means at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.
As such, you want to avoid shade for most of the day. This condition will reduce the amount of flowers. Of, in too much shade cause no flowers to bloom at all.
The only times shade is a good thing for the plant is during the afternoons when the sun gets really intense or during the peak of summer.
Other than that, plant will grow at its best when soaking in plenty of sunlight.
This makes the south and west the best spots for it. These locations give it the most sunlight of all directions, assuming you live in the states or Canada (both of which are in the norther hemisphere).
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Sarah Bernhardt Peony Temperature & Humidity
In contrast to houseplants which enjoy warm conditions, your Sarah Bernhardt Peony prefers cooler temperatures. As such, it is hardy to USDA zones 3 to 8, whereas, you’ll notice the most popular houseplants often prefer zones 9 or 10 and higher.
This means that the plant can withstand freezing temperatures as well as sub zero levels. It also prefers this cold climate. And, as long as you keep it where the mercury doesn’t go higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be happy.
The good news is, the wide hardiness zone range means you can grow this beautiful flowering plant whether you live the northeast, Pacific northwest, west or Midwest without any problems.
Watering Needs of Sarah Bernhardt Peony
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Your Sarah Bernhardt Peony will need regular watering during its first year. But once they’re established, they don’t need as much water anymore.
That said, it is not drought tolerant. And, it does best when it gets about an inch of water each week during its growing season.
The hotter the weather, the more you’ll need to water. Similarly, it is worthwhile to remember that keeping them in containers also means more regular watering since the water source available to them is limited to the pot.
Another thing you can do to help with water retention is to mulch them. This will keep water from evaporating as quickly. It also reduces the possibility of weeks.
But, don’t flood them with water. That don’t like being overwatered. So, balance is key.
To end this section, I’d like to mention that if you’re trying to figure out where to plant your Sarah Bernhardt Peony, one place to avoid is near trees and shrubs.
These have deeper, more extensive root systems. And, they are able to absorb more water and nutrients as well. Planting your peonies near these plants will make them lose out as they can’t compete with these plants.
Good soil is essential if you want your Sarah Bernhardt Peonies to produce large, vibrant flowers.
They grow best in rich, loamy soil that is well-draining. They likewise prefer mildly acidic soil with pH between 6.5 to 7.0.
Another thing to keep in mind is they like being exposed to the cold. As such, you want to plant it fairly shallow. Ideally, keep the top of its roots an inch below the soil line.
Unlike many houseplants, peonies have lifespans similar to people. That is, they can easily live to 70 or 80 years old and longer. Some will even stay in the same spot for over 100 years.
So, planning ahead of time or amending the soil to get it right goes a long way in enjoying their stunning blooms year in and year out, not just for you but also your kids and grandkids.
Also, don’t worry if they don’t bloom the first year or so. It takes a while, sometimes a few years for them to get started. But once they do, given the proper conditions, they’ll bloom heavily from then on.
So, patience is key.
Peonies in general don’t need a lot of plant food. And, the same holds true for the ‘Sarah Bernhardt’.
That said, they do like rich, fertile soil. So applying a good amount of compost or organic manure in the beginning of spring every other year helps a lot. This timing is ideal as you want to wait until after the plant has finished blooming.
If you do this, you don’t need to fertilize the plant. If you want, you can use a small amount of fertilizer to help it along. But, it is not necessary.
Sarah Bernhardt Peony Pruning
In the fall, after blooming, prune the dead flowers down to the point where the leaves connect to the stems.
If you want to propagate the plant (which is best done via division), this will be the best time to dig it up and separate it.
Sarah Bernhardt Peony Propagation
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The best way to propagate Sarah Bernhardt Peonies is to dig them up and dividing the root clump. You also want to immediately plant the divided sections.
This is best done in the fall after the flowers have faded.
- Before dividing, cut back its leaves down to the soil.
- Then, dig up the plant and take in out. You’ll need to brush away the soil to see the roots. If you need to, use a hose to clear the excess dirt.
- Divide the root into sections. You want each section to have at least 3 to 4 eyes. Use your hands or a sterile knife to separate the root clump into sections.
- If you see small roots, remove them. You want to leave the large, fleshy roots untouched.
- Plant the divisions in their own separate places.
Sarah Bernhardt Peony Transplanting & Repotting
Whether you’re planting the divided roots, transplanting it or repotting you can follow the steps below to make sure that it is done correctly.
You want to make a big enough hole to keep all the roots in without having to cramp them together. And, make sure to keep the plant shallow.
Finally, plant at least a month and a half (6 weeks) before the soil freezes.
- Start by picking the right spot. You want that area to get plenty of direct sunlight. And, keep it away from other plants whose roots may compete for water and nutrients.
- Now, start digging. You want to make the hole large enough to fit the roots when they’re spread apart.
- Add compost to the bottom of the hole.
- Plant your peony. Keep its roots about 1 to 2 inches under soil level with the eyes pointing upward.
- Give it about 3 feet of space to the right and to the left so the plant has sufficient room to grow.
- Fill the rest of the hole with soil.
- Water the plant and add light mulch. You don’t want to go too heavy on the mulch especially during the fall since the plant likes the cold.
Keep this plant away from animals as some parts are toxic when ingested.
Pests and Diseases
Pests are not a huge problem for your Sarah Bernhardt Peony. But, bud and leaf eelworms as well as caterpillars and swift moth larvae can damage it.
So, you want to watch out for them and treat immediately.
More importantly, you want to watch out for moisture-related diseases. This includes botrytis, which is a fungal disease that causes blackened stems and brown patches in leaves. Similarly, powdery mildew can become a problem.
As such, making sure that the soil drains well and the plant receives ample air circulation is crucial. This is why spacing is very important when planting or transplanting peonies.