How you care for your peonies after they flower in late spring and early summer can have a big impact on just how well your bushes will flower and fill out next season. And even more importantly, it can also play a big role in keeping them safe from health issues too!
Peonies can light up a landscape in the spring and early summer. Depending on where you live and the climate, the bushes can come into bloom anywhere from late April to early June. And when they do, their huge, colorful flowers fill the air with magnificent beauty and the sweet aroma of spring.
Unfortunately, peony bushes do not stay in bloom for long. Although a single bloom can last anywhere from seven to ten days, the entire blooming cycle for a bush usually lasts no longer than three to four weeks. And when those blooms do end, it’s time to help your bush get ready for next year!
Believe it or not, when the blooms of your peony bush begin to fade in late spring to early summer – it’s actually a pivotal time to help your bush recover and rejuvenate for next year.
The good news is that caring for your peony bushes after they flower isn’t difficult. In fact, it requires only two simple chores that can be done quickly. But as you will see below, a little bit of effort now will pay off big for the bush – especially when it comes to next year’s blooms!
How To Care For Peonies After They Flower
Deadheading Before Fertilizing – How To Care For Peonies After They Flower
One of the most critical chores to help your peony bush recover and start storing energy for next year is to remove the fading and dying blooms. This process, known as deadheading, needs to be done before you fertilize the bush.
Deadheading not only to cleans up the appearance of the fading blooms and your peony bush – but it can pay huge dividends for the health and future productivity of the bush itself.
As long as old blooms remain on a peony bush, they will continue to draw energy from the plant. Like most perennials and annuals, a peony bush will try to heal blooms as long they remain. But as soon as the fading flower is cut off, that energy gets refocused. Either to maintaining plant health – or storing up energy for future blooms.
For best results, remove any and all blooms once they begin to fade. Before fertilizing, take off any that remain as well to refocus the plant’s energy. This allows the new energy you will be providing with fertilizer to help it grow and store for next year’s blooms. See: How To Deadhead Annuals & Perennials For Better Blooms!
Fertilizing Peonies After They Flower
Peonies burn up an amazing amount of energy producing their gorgeous blooms. And that energy needs to be replaced right away to keep the plant healthy. Not only will it help the bush maintain its glossy green foliage for the remainder of summer, but also helps it begin to store up energy for winter and next year’s bloom cycle.
As soon as your peony completes its blooming cycle, it’s time for fertilizing. And the best way to do this is with a combination of granular fertilizer and compost.
Peonies respond best to slow release granular fertilizers that have more (P) phosphorous and (K) potassium than (N) nitrogen. They still need nitrogen to develop strong foliage, but phosphorous and potassium help the bush bloom better.
Select granular fertilizers with an N-P-K ratio near 5-10-10 or 10-15-15. These are still fairly balanced, but give a bit more phosphorous and potassium. Apply around the base of the plant at the recommended rate. After applying, rake in the grains a bit to help get them into the soil. Affiliate Link : 4-10-10 Lilly Miller Bulb & Bloom Food
Adding Compost As A Top Coat – How To Care For Peonies After They Flower
On top of the granular fertilizer application, a layer of compost will really help to add slow and steady power to your peony bush. Compost is overflowing with the perfect balance of nutrients. And those nutrients will slowly leach into the soil to re-energize the roots and bush.
For the compost portion, add a one to two inch layer around the base of your plant. Extend the layer from the main stem to the edge of the plant’s drip line. This one-two punch of fertilizer and compost is the perfect way to prepare your peony bush for continued success.
You will not need to fertilize for the remainder of the summer or fall. In fact, fertilizing peonies late in the season can actually put them at risk. Late season growth is highly susceptible to winter damage – and power added in late summer or early fall will force unwanted growth.
There are actually only two times you want to fertilize a peony bush. The first is in late winter / early spring right before the bush begins to leaf out. And, of course, the second is right after it finishes its bloom cycle.
Both applications can occur using the same granular fertilizer / compost combination. Together, these two applications provide the best timing for big blooms!
Fall Care – How To Care For Peonies After They Flower
Once fall arrives, your final peony bush chore is to make sure you prepare it for winter. As Autumn arrives, the green foliage of your plant will turn to yellow or crimson red depending on the variety. Once the leaves have started to fall from the plant – it’s time to cut it back.
Leaving the foliage up through the winter is one of the biggest mistakes gardeners make with peony bushes. The decaying foliage and stems are an easy place for pests and disease to attack the plant. And as they do, they can leave it vulnerable for winter. Even worse, they can lie in wait for next spring to attack the plant once again!
Using a pair of pruners or hedge trimmers, cut your peony bush back to within an inch or two of the ground. Next, apply a few inches of mulch over the top of it for winter protection. All that is left is to wait for early spring to give it another dose of fertilizer – and get ready for big blooms!
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