A Battle With Barren Peonies
When I moved into my current house, I was thrilled to find three large, healthy, and flowering peonies in one of the beds. I had never grown them before, but I adored this ostentatious flower. So, imagine my dismay when a couple years later they stopped blooming.
How I Reinvigorated My Peonies
Not only were the peony shrubs not producing flowers, they had grown smaller and scragglier every year. It was disappointing to see the once thriving plants decline so much. At the time, I didn’t really know anything about growing peonies.
Instead of doing extensive reading, I decided they didn’t have enough sunlight. They were situated against a west-facing wall that got only some afternoon and evening sun. I asked my husband to move them to a bed farther from the house and with more sun exposure.
The peonies promptly died. Much to my relief, they came back the following year, but they didn’t grow much and still didn’t have flowers. By the second year, the peonies were back and blooming. A few years later, they look as good as they did when I first saw them.
What I have subsequently learned about the situation is that I was right. Peonies often fail to thrive or bloom with too much shade. They are also pretty tough and will hold out for years, declining slowly, which is what happened with mine. I have also learned that it is normal for them to take a year or two after transplantation to bloom again.
There are several other reasons a peony might not produce flowers if shade isn’t the issue:
- Deep planting. Peonies grow from tubers with eyes from whence come the flowers. When planting, the eyes must point up and be no more than two inches (5 cm.) below the surface of the soil. Any deeper, and they won’t emerge. You’ll get healthy shrubs but no flowers.
- Nitrogen fertilizer. Don’t go overboard fertilizing peonies, especially with nitrogen. They will put energy into new growth and not flowers. Give them a 5-10-5 fertilizer just once per year for the best results.
- Cutting back. Resist the urge to cut back the foliage too early. Doing so in late summer can weaken the plant and reduce blooms the following year.
- Late freeze. If your plant buds but never blossoms, it could be down to weather conditions. A late freeze, often in May, will damage buds and can ultimately destroy them completely for the year.
- Fungal infection. During cool conditions with a lot of moisture, peony buds can suffer from a fungal infection, often botrytis blight. The buds with this disease will look small, rotten, and brown or black. If you see blight, cut off the affected buds and foliage to destroy.