Nothing screams an old-fashioned cottage garden like growing peonies in pots. Peonies come in gorgeous colors, brightening up your landscape.
While most people pick to grow peonies in the ground, lack of growing space shouldn’t limit you; peonies grow well in containers as well.
Peonies grow well in USDA hardiness zones 3-8, so most of the United States can enjoy these gorgeous flowers in their garden.
Growing peonies in pots does make them more vulnerable to frost and freezing temperatures, so you will need a place to overwinter them inside. Otherwise, the winter temperatures will destroy them. Growing Peonies in Pots.
Peonies have specific requirements for proper growth. Here are some key points to remember when to grow peony in a container.
The great thing about growing peony plants in your garden is that they’re a perennial, so they can last for decades.
A properly maintained plant can grow for years and be divided into even more as they grow.
Let’s take a look at how you can grow and maintain peony plants in containers. It’s not as hard as you might think!
Growing Peonies in Pots: How to Get Started
Peonies are a gorgeous plant to add to your container garden, and growing them in pots isn’t too hard. Make sure that your region is sufficient for peonies. They prefer to grow in areas that have 500-1,000 chill hours per winter. That means the temperatures need to be between 35-45℉.
So, if you try to grow peonies in USDA zones 8-9, they might not receive enough chill hours, causing the plants to refuse to flower.
Otherwise, if you grow peonies in pots, here are the steps that you need to know.
1. Find The Right Spot For The Container
It’s best to place the container before you fill it. Peonies need large containers, so once they’re filled, they won’t be easy to move.
2. Choose A Container
Peonies are a large plant, and they need plenty of space to grow. The biggest mistake gardeners make is picking too small of a pot. Choose a container that is at least 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide or wider.
Chances are you will need to transfer it to a larger pot. They are a large bush that can reach 4 feet tall, so the root system is substantial. You’ll need to watch the growth and transfer if the plant seems root-bound.
The container needs to have plenty of drainage holes. If peonies sit in too much water, it can lead to tuber rot, which will ruin your plants.
3. Fill The Container With Proper Soil
Peonies are a bit picky about the soil they grow in, so you need to pay close attention. The soil should be loose and well-draining, but it needs to be fertile and rich.
4. Plant Peonies In The Pot
Peonies are tubers, and you can plant in spring or fall time. Some say that fall is best because it gives the plants time to establish before the ground freezes.
Remember that peonies need chill hours to bloom, so they won’t get the chill hours if you plant in the spring.
Caring for Peonies in Containers
Since peonies are perennial, most of the focus needs to be on the plants’ proper care. Peonies can last for years, but only with the best care methods; plans can last for decades!
1. Keep Them Wet
The soil needs to be kept evenly moist but not soggy. It’s easy to cause root rot if you overwater peonies.
2. Fertilize Once A Year
Peonies are perennials, so fertilizing is a must-do item if you want their growth to continue. Typically, the best time to feed is in the spring before the major growing season begins.
3. Overwinter Inside
Fertilizing temperatures and frost kill tubers, so you need to bring your peonies inside to overwinter. This is an advantage that you have when growing peonies in pots; you can just move them inside and not worry about frost damaging your plants.
Dormancy might not sound like much fun, but peonies need a 2-3 month period of rest.
4. Prune When Needed
Typically, peonies are considered low maintenance, but in the fall or winter, you might need to prune your plants. Pruning is part of how you keep your plant in overall good health.
5. Divide Infrequently
Dividing needs to be on your to-do list once every 5-10 years or so. This is not a task that you want to do frequently, or you will damage your plant.
Dividing will delay the next blooming time, but it’s vital for your plant’s health and proper growth.
The best way is to propagate and divide the root clump. Then, you need to replant the divided pieces immediately. They cannot stay out of the ground for too long.
Pests & Diseases That Bug Peonies
The good news is that peonies aren’t bothered by too many pests. The biggest problem peony plants have is various fungi that like to destroy plants unless you keep a close eye. Wet growing seasons are problematic.
Here are some common problems you might face.
1. Botrytis Blight
This fungus develops during the wet growing season. You might notice black or brown patches on the leaves, as well as cankers on the stems. The stems might turn black. The flower buds can turn brown as well.
If your peony plants develop botrytis blight, you will need to remove the infected leaves as soon as you find them. Deadheading is also beneficial, and you should always clean up any plant debris in the fall.
2. Powdery Mildew
Here is another common disease that affects dozens of lants, including peony. It will cover your plant’s leaves in a white powdery coating.
In general, powdery mildew doesn’t cause a huge problem for the plant’s long-term life span, but it could cause growth delays. You should cut back the affected parts of the plant in the fall and destroy those.
3. Peony Wilt
Here is another disease caused by a fungus. Peony wilt is often present in the soil, and it can infect the plant, causing the plant stems to wilt. Your local extension office can test the stems to determine if they’re infected by peony wilt or not.
If you do have peony wilt, you have to take the entire plant and destroy it. Don’t use the same soil; it’s best never to plant peonies in the same area. You will have to start over fresh next year.
Varieties of Peonies to Grow in Pots
In most cases, peonies are grown in the ground, so you need to pick a variety that grows well in containers. The best choices are ones that generally stay smaller or don’ reach heights as tall as regular peonies. Here are a few examples.
Sometimes called “Zhao’s Pink,” this variety reaches heights of 3-6 feet, on average, and a width of 2-4 feet. While that might seem large, it’s not as large as other varieties you might grow in your garden.
If you’re looking for something smaller, consider CinnabarRed, which typically reaches a height and width between 2 to 2.5 feet.
Fern Leaf Peony
If you need an even smaller plant, Fern Leaf only grows to be 1-2 feet in height and a maximum of 16 inches wide.
Peonies are a perennial that can add plenty of beauty to your garden for years to come. They can last for decades when properly cared for each year. Make sure you pick the right container for your plans and remember to water and fertilize frequently for optimal growth.
Amber Noyes born and raised in a suburb Nebraska town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from University of California as well as an BS in Biology City College of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers markets, and potted plants she understands what makes plants thrive and how can we better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially Indoor gardening, houseplants and Growing plants in a small space.