How to grow peonies at home for fabulously fluffy flowers the size of dinner plates

Why waste your money on cut peonies when you can grow your own at home?

pink peonies on a bush in a garden to demonstrate how to grow peonies at home
(Image credit: Getty Images | Jasenka Arbanas)

Is it any wonder people love peonies so much? Their romantic pastel-coloured blooms are silky, delicate, and ever so fragrant, making them a popular choice for summer bouquets – but there's no denying that cut flowers are expensive. Here, then, is how to grow peonies at home and cheat the system.

That's right: you can wow your guests and be the envy of your neighbours by growing your own peonies and reaping the benefits of one of the best plants around, if you're willing to put in the time and effort to cultivate this gardening trend at home.

Honestly, it's well worth the hard work, as these flamboyant flowers will be perfectly at home among your favourite cottage garden plants – and they're relatively easy to keep happy, so long as you find them a spot in rich but well-drained soil with lots of sunshine.

How to grow peonies

"Peonies are a classically beautiful and romantic plant, flowering vibrant pink, white and red flowers every summer!" says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. 

"There are several different varieties of peonies but all need to be planted in a moist but well-drained soil," he continues. 

"Ensure you position your peonies in full sun and be careful not to plant your peonies too deeply into the ground as they won't flower."

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

What you will need

You wouldn't begin mowing your lawn or pruning your roses without the right tools to hand, so be sure to prep accordingly before you begin to learn how to prune roses.

To that end, then, make sure you have:

Your step-by-step guide

Now that you have everything you need, you can learn how to grow peonies like a gardening superstar and fill your garden with florist-worthy flowers in the process.

1) Choose your moment carefully

Peonies are best planted in autumn or spring, when the soil is moist and not too hot or cold. 

"It’s a sweet spot when the soil is still warm so the new roots will develop quickly and get your new plants established!" says Morris.

2) Prep the soil

It's one of the top gardening tips for beginners, but soil is everything when it comes to making sure your garden plants thrive.

As such, the experts at Flowwow say that "special attention must be given to the soil before you begin planting your peonies, nurturing it carefully, enriching it with fertilisers, and diligently removing weeds."

Essentially, you'll want to mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter or compost before you add your peony plants to the mix – and it's a good idea to apply a balanced fertiliser (taking care to follow the instructions on the packet), too.

growing peonies in a garden before flowering

(Image credit: Getty Images | Paul Maguire)

3) Plant and space accordingly

"For optimal growth, peonies should be planted in locations that receive plenty of sunlight," explain the flower experts at Flowwow. 

"When planting, it is crucial to maintain adequate spacing between the flowers to avoid overcrowding and to ensure they are not planted too deep – a depth of about 2 inches is more than sufficient."

4) Get watering... but not too much

Just as you need to know how often you should water houseplants, the same is true of your peonies: while you should water them after planting to help settle them, then, remember that overwatering is the biggest cause of plant failure.

"The key is to avoid over-saturation, as this can make the root rot," say the Flowwow team. "It's essential keep the balance right."

To that end, they add that "heavy rain can pose a threat to peonies, potentially damaging the flowers and fragile petals". 

During rainstorms, then, be sure to protect your peonies with a specialist flower cover.

5) Show them some love

Peonies require some maintenance if you want them to grow well, so be prepared to step in and show them some TLC every so often.

"If you notice any rotten petals, it's crucial to remove them or even cut the plant back to protect the flower and prepare it for the next season," says the Flowwow team.

Morris, meanwhile, advises that you take care "to prune your peonies in the autumn after the first frost as the foliage starts to die back naturally."

Pink peonies growing in a garden with a sunset light behind

(Image credit: Getty Images | Jasenka Arbanas)


Where do peonies grow best?

If you're wondering where peonies grow best, the answer is simple enough: somewhere sunny!

"For optimal growth, peonies should be planted in locations that receive plenty of sunlight," say the experts at Flowwow. 

You'll want a rich and well-draining soil (so nothing too waterlogged), and be sure to check the pH levels to ensure you're popping your expensive blooms in either a neutral or slightly alkaline soil, too.

What month is best to plant peonies?

The best month to plant peonies is wholly dependent on the type of plant you're working with; bare root herbaceous peonies should be planted between October and March, for example, while ready-grown potted plants from your local garden centre will fare best in the springtime.

Will peonies bloom the first year planted?

Most peonies will take at least a year or two to establish themselves before they bloom, so patience is absolutely a virtue with these plants.

"While the stunning flowers brighten up any garden, it's worth remembering that they can be very heavy so it's important to provide a plant support," advises Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries, noting that good support and lots of love is key to getting the fluffy flowers of your dreams.

How do you propagate peonies?

Herbaceous peonies can (and should) be propagated by division. 

"Peonies can clump over time, so you may decide to divide them if they stop flowering," says Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries. "The best time to do this is during late-Autumn."

Now that you know how to grow peonies, you'd best start stocking up on beautiful vases and jugs to display all of your fabulous flowers in.

Good luck!

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is an experienced writer and editor within the world of digital journalism. She kicked off her career in magazines with Cosmopolitan as a news writer. Kayleigh then went on to become part of the digital editorial team at Closer, before a successful seven-year stint at Stylist, where she took command as the site’s editor and editor-at-large.

Nowadays, Kayleigh can be found freelancing for a myriad of titles including Woman & Home, along with a role at Ideal Home where she waxes lyrical about her true love: gardening. She is currently giving her own backyard a woodland-inspired makeover – and there have been whispers of a vegetable plot, too.