Peonies are my favorite flower. They're so fluffy and gorgeous, and the green foliage is beautiful too! As I've been picking, weeding, and displaying them this peony season, I decided it would be a good idea to document and share what I do to make sure my flowers are as beautiful as possible when I bring them into the house. After five years of growing them, I've learned a thing or two that you might find helpful! If these topics interest you, continue reading below for my favorite tricks for growing and picking peonies and for dealing with ants that I'm sharing with you today.
How to Grow Peonies
Peonies grow from zones 3 to 8. I successfully grow them in zone 3 here in Alberta, Canada as an amateur home gardener. My experience is with herbaceous peonies (the shrub, not the tree peony type) that love full sun. Mine are on the south side of my house in said full sun and they grow well there. You can find lots of peony plants at most gardening centers as well as Walmart and Home Depot. Plant them in late spring, and make sure you follow the directions that will be included with your purchase to ensure you plant them at the right depth and distance apart.
Just a little warning: It does take quite a while for peony shrubs to mature and produce giant, luscious blooms. Mine took about four years. I believe it's worth the wait until they mature, because you can enjoy these lovely perennial plants for many years to come when they start to bloom! The varieties I have and love are Alexander Fleming (full and bright pink) and Sarah Bernhardt (full and blush pink). I like to put a ring with stakes around my more mature, larger plants in early spring. This way they don't droop or fall over when they get heavy with beautiful blossoms.
How to Store Peonies to Bloom Later
Peonies only bloom for a couple of weeks in late June here in zone 3, but it is possible to prolong their season with some little tricks! One way is by picking them at just the right time and storing them in the refrigerator. Wait until your peony bud has all its colour and is squishy to the touch, like a marshmallow. In this marshmallow stage, as it's called, there will be no more green visible on the flower bud and all you will see are the coloured petals just about ready to unfurl. Once your buds look like this, cut the stems with a sharp knife or garden shears, remove all of the leaves, and wrap the cut stems gently in some plastic cling wrap. Store them horizontally in your fridge for a few weeks, and then pull them out later, place them in a vase with water, and watch their petals unfurl.
How to Deal with Ants on Peonies
Ants love peonies so much and can be such a nuisance! It is off-putting to check on how your beautiful blossoms are coming along and find them swarming with ants. It might help to remember that these little insects are actually very important to the peony maturing process! They eat the nectar from the peony buds as a food source, which helps the flowers to open so beautifully. Even so, you don't want them in your house and there ARE ways to cut down on the presence of these little creatures so you can enjoy your flowers inside in peace.
The best way to keep ants off the peonies you want to cut and use inside is to pick them at the marshmallow bud stage. This way the ants cannot get established in the petals. You can then let them open up in a vase with water inside. You don't want to pick your buds too early though! The peonies need the ants to eat the nectar (from the extrafloral nectaries, if you want to be nerdy about the whole thing), so they can open. They won't open properly if you bring them inside before the ants have had a chance to do their thing.
Another method involves removing ants after the petals have unfurled already and they are already well established inside the peony head. This can be used after your peonies have arrived at their fully opened stage. Simply hang them upside down and give them a good shake. Then flick any extra bugs off the petals before bringing them inside. To be sure, you can soak the flowers upside down in a bucket of water outside to remove bugs too. I like to soak mine for about two hours and then give them a good shake before bringing them inside. I promise this doesn't harm them in the slightest, and it's a great way to get rid of the ants.
Watch this video to see these peony growing & storing tips in action:
I hope these tips have helped you today! Do you grow peonies already or do you want to start growing them next year? If you don't like peonies at all, that's ok too! Do you have a different favorite flower? Let me know in the comments below or @thediymommy!
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