Your Guide to Growing Peonies in Pots and Containers
Planting peonies in pots takes a little more effort, but the payoff is spectacular!
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Peonies are a carefree favorite in the perennial garden, where they grow into large flowering masses. But if you don’t have the yard space, you can grow peonies in pots instead, as long as you’re willing to give them a little more care.
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Where Can You Grow Peonies in Pots?
When planted in the ground, peonies usually thrive in zones 3 to 8. Growing these flowering shrubs in pots can be a little more difficult in the colder zones, because pots don’t provide as much protection from plunging winter temps. As long as you’re willing to take steps to overwinter them properly, though, their container growing range is about the same.
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Choose the Right Container for Peonies
Peonies have deep tap roots, and their branch roots like to spread out wide. They don’t like to be moved once they’re established, so put them into a nice big pot right from the start. Choose one that’s at least 20 inches wide and deep, and avoid terracotta as it can dry out too quickly.
Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes. Peony tubers will rot if they sit in soggy potting soil, so your pot needs to allow excess water to escape freely.
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Plant Peonies in Pots Properly
Once you’ve got the right container, you’re ready to plant. Fill the pot with a potting soil mix that provides good drainage. If the soil doesn’t contain fertilizers, add a healthy mix of compost to the soil.
Take care to plant your peonies at the proper depth; planting them too deep can reduce flowering. If you’re planting a bare root tuber, position it with the eyes facing up, and bury it no deeper than 2 inches or so. For peony plants, ensure the crown of the plant is level with the top of the soil, just slightly below the rim of the container. The best time to plant peonies is fall.
Many peonies require support for their heavy flower heads. Tomato-cage supports can be ideal in pots. Add them when you plant, so your peonies will fill in and hide them over time.
Don’t miss these pretty pictures of peonies in full bloom.
Find the Right Spot
Peonies like lots of sun, at least 6 hours each day. A little afternoon shade is OK, and may extend the life of your blooms. Be sure to protect your plant from high winds and heavy rains, which can easily topple them.
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Watering Your Potted Peonies
Peonies like evenly moist soil, but absolutely hate sitting in soggy spots. While ground-planted peonies can use their deep tap roots to seek out moisture even in a drought, potted specimens will need regular watering. Check the soil every few days, and when the top couple of inches are dry, water them until excess runs out of the bottom of the pot.
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Overwintering Peonies in Pots
Cut the foliage back to the base in late fall, when leaves begin to yellow and drop off. Removing all the foliage from the pot can help prevent peony wilt disease.
Add a heavy layer of mulch overtop, and move the pot to a sheltered area (a garage or potting shed is ideal) until warm weather returns. In the spring, watch for red shoots to appear as the weather warms up. Now you’re ready to move your peony back outdoors!
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Avoid Peony Pests and Diseases
In general, peonies aren’t susceptible to too many issues. Peony wilt disease is a fungus that shows up in early spring, causing shoots and buds to wither and turn brown. In this case, your only option is to remove the affected foliage and see if the plant can recover.
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Best Peony Varieties for Growing in Pots
These smaller, sturdier peony varieties can make terrific container plants.
- Paeonia ‘Oslo’
- P. ‘Kiev’
- P. ‘Dublin’
- P. ‘Border charm’
- P. ‘Bartzella’
- P. ‘Magical Mystery Tour’
Grow a fernleaf peony for fancy flowers and foliage.