Peonies grow best in zones: 3-8. They are suited to loamy soil that is well-drained, with a pH level between 6.0 to 7.5. The seeds should be planted 3-4 feet apart and 1.5-2 inches deep. Peonies should not be planted near trees and shrubs which can absorb moisture in the soil that the peony needs. The plants should be grown in full sunlight, and can grow 3-7 feet high and 4-5 feet wide. Peonies require little maintenance and it is best to leave the plants undisturbed after it establishes itself, as they do not respond well to transplanting. If the soil is sandy, add nutrient-rich compost to the soil. The stems of peonies are not strong enough to bear the weight of the flower sometimes, so support them with a 3-legged ring which they can grow through. Remove blossoms as soon as they show signs of withering. Peonies attract many ants because of its nectar. These ants help kill pests that pose a threat to peonies which reduces the need for the spraying of pesticides.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Peonies were first grown in China because their medicinal properties were highly valued. They would use the roots, bark, seeds, and flowers to treat different ailments. White peony root, one of the oldest remedies, was used to treat night sweats, abdominal pain, and sores. (3) Peonies are still used today to treat problems like muscle cramps, fevers, and dry or cracked skin (4).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Peonies are native to Asia, Europe, and North America. In China, peonies symbolize "friendship, good luck and feminine beauty" in China. It also is a plant symbolic of 12 years of prosperous and romantic marriage. If the peony wilts, that is representative of poverty. There is also a popular festival in Luoyang dedicated to displaying the finest peonies in China. In Japan, the peony symbolizes "wealth, good fortune, honor, daring and masculine bravery." In Finland, they were grown in monastery gardens for their medicinal properties. In Hungary, churches were decorated with peonies. In Europe, peony is the “rose without thorns” and was cultivated for fragrances. (3)
From the Community Voice
White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.
Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They're staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.
The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it's coming from.
In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one's face.
Jane Kenyon (3)
1. Peonies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2013, from The Old Farmer's Almanac website: http://www.almanac.com/plant/peonies
2. Dana, M. N., & Lerner, B. R. (2001, May). The Peony: State Flower of Indiana. Retrieved October 24, 2013, from Purdue Agriculture website: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/ho-76.pdf
3. Ali, N. S. (2011, June 11). Peony - Good Fortune, Compassion, Nobility. Retrieved October 26, 2013, from Fragrantica website: http://www.fragrantica.com/news/Peony-Good-Fortune-Compassion-Nobility-2306.html
4. Peony: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2013, from WebMD website: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/