White Peony Plant Care – Growing Paeonia Lactiflora

White peonies are among the most popular colors of this fragrant herbaceous perennials. It is perfect if you want to add a clean, elegant look to your garden.

The white peony is a great flower to have because it has a very long lifespan. As such, once you learn how to care for it below, you’ll be able to enjoy its beauty for decades to come.

The plant belongs to the genus Paeonia. It grows up to 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. While not the biggest in stature, its exquisite looks and wonderful fragrance are what make it stand out.

Unfortunately, the flowers bloom only for 7 to 14 days. If you take good care of them, they’ll bloom towards that top end of that range. But, given the wrong conditions, you may only see their flowers last for 3 to 5 days. As such, it is essential to understand its preferences.

The good news is, they’re low maintenance plants that are easy to care for once you know what to do.

Also, due to their popularity, it is very easy to find them in your local nursery. As such, you can enjoy them as borders, in garden beds, cut flowers, or in containers. They also attract butterflies to your garden.

White Peony Plant Care

White Peony Light

White peonies need full sun to thrive. This means you need to place them somewhere they get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight on a daily basis.

If they don’t get enough bright light they won’t produce as many flowers. Similarly, the blooms that they do produce will be smaller than what you’d normally see.

The amount of light they receive also affects how long their bloom for. Given ideal lighting, their flowers can last from 7 to 14 days. Without it, you may not get past 3 to 4 days.

And, because sunlight helps excess moisture dry, lack of it increases their risk of fungal disease as well.

That said, they do benefit from part shade during mid afternoons and during hot summers when the sun is most intense.

This makes a south, east or west facing area of your garden. You can likewise place them in containers if you want to enjoy them at home. However, peonies are harder to grow indoors which is why you’ll often see them planted in the ground (which they also seem to prefer).

 

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White Peony Temperature & Humidity

White peonies love and need the cold. In fact, they need 3 weeks or so of temperatures of at most 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to bloom. If you prefer counting hours, some gardeners will tell you 480 hours of this kind of temperature is needed.

If the temperature where you live is higher than this, you’ll notice that their blooms will be smaller than in the colder areas.

As such, the best parts of the country to grow white peonies are in zones 3 to 8. This gives you the ideal climate. And, because temperature affect how them bloom, which are what peonies are grown for, periods of low temperature is crucial.

This is also the reason why early and mid season peonies tend to produce more (and better) flowers. In contrast, late season white peonies experience warmer conditions that can sometimes get too hot for them to bloom optimally.

This also means that you don’t want to cover your white peonies with as much mulch as you do other plants because they enjoy the colder climate. The only exception is if the winters are severe. But, even then cover them fairly loosely.

Last but not least, protect them strong winds.

 

White Peony Watering

White peonies do best when the soil is kept moist. This means you’ll likely need to water them once a week. Although, it may be a little more or less depending on how much sun they get, the kind of soil they’re in, how big they are, the weather and a few other factors.

That said, it is important that they’re planted in well draining soil. If grown outdoors, this means you want to keep they away from heavy soils like clay. Or, if that’s the kind of soil your garden has, add amendments to improve its draining ability.

Similarly, if you decide to grow your white peonies in containers indoors, make sure the pot you put them in has drainage holes. You’ll also want to use a high quality potting mix that’s light with excellent drainage.

As much as they like moist soil, your white peonies detest overwatering. Thus, in addition to well draining soil, make sure to keep track of the amount of rainfall in recent days. If there’s adequate rain in your area, you don’t want to “double up” on moisture by watering it after it just rained.

However, in cases where you go without rain for 12 to 14 days, make sure they’re watered during this period.

The last thing to remember about white peonies is that they go dormant. So, while deep watering is the norm during the drier summer months, you want to can stop watering once the plant goes into dormancy.

 

Soil

White peonies like well draining soil with pH of between 6.5 to 7.0. They don’t do well if left sitting in water. Thus, if you garden happens to have clay soil, add compost to make it lighter and improve its draining capability.

You can likewise place them on a slope where the water can naturally flow downward. Although slopes are harder to plant on because of the uneven surface.

Another option would be to use raised beds. This lets you bypass the garden soil altogether and use the ideal soil for the plant.

If you’re growing white peonies in containers choose a potting mix that’s likewise well draining. You can do this yourself by adding perlite or sand. But, if you want something straight out of the box, buy an azalea potting mix or on that’s created for rhododendrons. This will give you the necessary features well suited for peonies.

In addition to the soil, you also want to give these plants enough room. I like to make a 3 to 4 foot circle for each plant. This give them enough space grow. Just as importantly, the space between them allows for good air circulation.

This is key because white peonies are susceptible to gray mold. As such, you want moisture to dry faster than slower. And, the best way to help this along is airflow.

Also, keep them away from trees and shrubs which have big extending roots. These will compete and likely beat out your peonies for water and nutrients.

Make sure you take the time to choose their spot since peonies will stay in that same place between 50 and 70 years without any problems.

The one last thing about soil is be prepared to offer your white peonies structural support. Because they have large blooms and thin stems they’re not the most stable. This causes them to droop especially those that are well taken care of (because they produce bigger flowers),

As such, do use tomato cages, stakes or other upright scaffold structures to support the plant.

 

Fertilizing

White peonies are light feeders. As such, you want to focus more on the soil rather than the fertilizer. In most cases, the fertilizer is there to supplement the soil you have.

The only exception to this is that if you already have the peonies planted and happen to have poor soil. In this scenario, adding compost and fertilizer will help.

Otherwise, it is better to spend time working on the soil and adding compost beforehand. This allows you to feed the plant lightly.

The best time to feed your peonies is after they have bloomed and you have deadheaded the spent flowers.

 

Pruning White Peony

White peonies are fairly low maintenance when it comes to pruning. That is, you don’t need to trim them to control their growth or keep them from getting too messy.

However, you still need to do some pruning to keep them healthy. The first of which is to trim away any diseased or damaged sections.

Additionally, once their flowers have bloomed and start to fade, you want to deadhead them. Thus, most of the work will happen after the growing season.

Once first frost arrives sometime in the fall, cut them all the way down to the ground. This will prevent them from getting any diseases through the winter.

 

Propagation

One of the best features of peonies is that they live about as long as people do. You can expect them to stay in the same spot (unless you transplant them) for 50 to 100 years. Of course, exactly how long will depend on the kind of care and conditions they receive.

That said, you may want to grow more of them because they look so good in your garden. And, the best way to do so is by dividing its root.

However, once you dig it up, you’ll notice that white peonies have both thin and thick roots. The thicker ones store moisture while the thinner ones are there to suck water from the soil. As such, you want to be careful with these roots when transplanting or propagating them.

The best time to propagate is during the fall right become it is about to begin its dormant phase.

How to Propagate White Peonies through Division

  • Dig up the plant and take it out. You will need to expose the roots to propagate it. if you find that the soil is hard to remove, soak it with water to soften the soil.
  • Once you get to the roots, you want to find sections your can separate. Ideally, you want to pick sections with at least 3 to 5 eyes.
  • Use a sharp, sterilized knife to slice the root clump into sections. You can use a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol to sanitize the blade. This is to ensure that you don’t pass any bacteria from the cutting tool to your plant.
  • Plant the separated division into their own spots. And cover the mother plant with soil as well.

 

Transplanting & Repotting

White peonies live so long that they’re often handed down from one generation to another. As such, it is well worth the extra effort to take the time to plant or transplant them.

In this section, you’ll go through the steps in planting white peonies in your garden as well as in contains.

The one thing you always want to remember here is to plant them only 2 to 3 inches deep. That’s because white peonies likes its roots near the soil surface. This is definitely less common as you’re often told to allow roots to sink deep for a healthier plant.

However, allowing the roots to be more exposed lets them experience the cold climate which the plant needs produce buds.

How to Transplant White Peonies to Your Garden

When you get your white peonies from the nursery, they either come in plastic containers or in bare roots packed in plastic bags.

  • The first thing you want to do before planting is to choose a good location. You want a spot that gets a lot of sun (at least 6 to 8 hours/day). But, be careful so that it doesn’t receive the brunt of intense sunlight during mid afternoon or during the summer.
  • Also, make sure it has well draining soil. You can work the soil beforehand by adding compost to improve its drainage. Or, if you have clay or heavy soil, use a raised bed.
  • The best time is plant in the fall a few weeks before first frost.

Now on to the planting.

  • Dig a hole that’s big enough for the root ball.
  • Make sure to give it enough space to grow since the plant will be there for decades unless you want to move it again. I like to give each plant a diameter of 3 to 4 feet. This is enough spacing for it grow. It also allows lots of air to flow through to help dry up and excess moisture.
  • Transplant your white so that the eyes are facing up. Eyes are the tiny red buds you’ll see at the bottom of the plant.
  • You want to plant the eyes to a depth of about 2 inches deep, not much more than that. This allows them to experience the chill of winter which your peony will need to flower. If you go deeper, you run the risk of it not blooming at all.
  • Now all you need to do is wait.
  • Come springtime, you’ll start see it sprout leaves.
  • For young plants it may take a few years before you start seeing blooms. So, you may want to get one with a little age to it. This way it will flower soon after planting.
  • The good news is, you can expect the plant to live anywhere between 50 to 100 years as long as its well taken care of. So, there will be many years of beautiful blooms ahead.

How to Plant Peonies in Containers Indoors

  • Choose a good sized container. Make sure it has drainage holes. You don’t necessarily need a very deep container because white peonies like being planted shallow.
  • Makes sure to get a heavy pot. Or, at least add weight to the bottom. Your peony is top heavy because of its large flower. Thus, you want to balance out the weight so it doesn’t tip over.
  • If you want to take it outside, keep it in bright, but shaded area. This way it will not be  too hot during the summertime.
  • Fille the pot with about a third of the way with potting mix. Make sure you use a fast draining mix. You can add perlite or sand to improve its drainage. Or, just go with an azalea mix.
  • Insert the plant so that the roots are about 2 inches from the surface. Again, use its eyes to gauge the level. You want to keep the eyes facing up as well.
  • Fill the rest of the pot with soil, then water.
  • Keep it in near freezing conditions since the plant likes the cold.

 

Toxicity

Keep white peonies away from kids and animals. As beautiful as they are, its seeds, flowers and roots are all toxic. If ingested, they can cause tremors, irritation, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.

 

Pests and Diseases

White peonies are fairly resistant to pests. That said, they do attract ants. That’s because ants like the taste of the plant’s sweet nectar, which is also what attracts other pollinators to it.

That said, ants don’t damage the plants. So, you may or may not want to get rid of them. On the one hand, if you have pets and kids running round the garden, ants can be a problem.

However, some gardeners let the ants be with peonies because they protect the plant from pests like aphid and scale.

That said, disease is another story. White peonies are susceptible to gray mold, which is caused by overwatering or excess moisture not drying. As such, it is important to allow enough air circulation around the plant.

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