By Matt Gibson
Herbaceous peonies are one of the most popular perennial flowers in the world for many reasons. They are absolutely beautiful when in bloom, they require very little care, and they last a lifetime, literally. With the proper care and placement, peonies can last up to 100 years in a single spot.
Peonies are available in many different varieties and colors and are cultivated and appreciated all over the world. Though these beauties love the sun, they also appreciate some mid-afternoon shade as a reprieve. The only downside to peonies are their tendency to lay down in the grass and take the day off.
Peonies don’t literally take the day off, that is a bit of a stretch. In fact, they don’t even have real jobs. The only thing they are asked to do, however, is stand up straight, yet every time they start to bloom, they fall down on the job. The problem is that peony blooms are very heavy.
When they bloom, the buds are so large that the stems cannot support the weight, so they flop down on the grass in an unsightly pile of fully-blooming foliage. This is a problem for peony gardeners every growing season. The good news is that there is a solution, and once you take the time to rectify the issue by installing some type of support for your peonies, the problem is pretty much solved for all future seasons.
The issue that most gardeners encounter is forgetfulness (or maybe laziness). As the peonies start to emerge from dormancy, folks tend to get caught up with other tasks. Springtime is a busy time for gardening and most gardeners have other things to focus on aside from yardwork.
Once the stems start to shoot up and pretty pink flowers start to emerge, horticulturists think to themselves, “I should really put some support beams up for my peonies this season,” but then never think about it again as their peonies fall to the ground. Instead of heading up to the local garden center to get some supports, many simply snip the buds and take the flowers indoors to improve the mood of a room or the dinner table. While adding some peonies to your home decor is always a good move, the simple solution to falling peonies gets put off until next season, and then next year and so on.
So, now that you’re thinking about it and reading an article about how to handle the problem, put a trip to the garden center on your to-do list, or even better, head there as soon as you finish this article. Once you put the support beams or cage in place the problem is solved for years to come. Moving forward, every season as your peonies bloom, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they are supported. Instead of your peonies forcing your hand and pushing their way indoors, the choice is now yours, keep them in the garden or bring them inside. The choice is yours.
Ways to Support Your Peonies
In the olden days, the only way to support a drooping plant without a whole lot of creative thinking was with simple stakes. Just drive a stake into the ground with a hammer or rubber mallet and tie it to the sagging plant with a ribbon or a piece of string and walk away. This is more trouble than it’s worth for peonies, however, as these flowers grow in relatively large clusters and each stem calls for support in order to stand up after the flower has bloomed.
Gardening is already tedious work as it is, it’s hard to imagine driving upwards of twenty stakes into the ground for one cluster of peony flowers. Luckily, the olden days have come and gone and modern gardeners have patented several useful support options that work for peonies and other plants that need help standing up to the rigors of sun, wind, rain, and natural top heaviness.
Many of these support systems are practically invisible once your flowers have grown in place. Some are intended to be decorative as well as supportive and are more visible than other options. Peruse and select your favorites and order them today. Your peonies will appreciate your efforts immensely.
Grow Through Hoop Grids
Grow through hoops like this one are great for peonies. A round hoop with no grid doesn’t work as well for peonies as they tend to grow in clusters and a group of twelve to twenty peonies needs more support than a solitary hoop. The grid design allows for each flower (or group of 2-3) to have it’s own zone to grow through.
This support option calls for some adjustment as your flowers grow taller. Simply adjust the height of the grid by raising it on the stakes as the plant grows. This design will practically disappear as your flowers grow to full size. Once the growing season is over, just trim the peonies down to an inch or two, lower the grid, and leave the whole contraption in place for next season. You can store it away if you like, but leaving it cuts down on work next season, and also marks the spot where your peonies will sprout back up when duty calls.
Grow Through Tomato Hoops
These grow through hoop supports are not designed for peonies, but for tomatoes. It’s basically the same thing as the hoop grids we discussed above, but with no grid to separate the flowers, so they all just grow through the center hoop.
As mentioned above, the solitary hoop isn’t ideal for peony clusters, however, some gardeners swear by tomato support hoops for peonies, and some peony clusters are less dense and more spread out than others, and therefore work better with a bit more room. Though the grid seems like the right fit, it’s always wise to listen to those with experience and there must be a good reason why peony growers use tomato hoops instead of the grids.
Fencing with Lattice Overlay
If you like peonies so much that you want to plant more than just a cluster here and there, you may want to consider a more elaborate support system. You can use a wire fencing around the perimeter of your peony garden. Once your plants are tall enough, use ribbon to weave a lattice around the fence posts and through the plants for added support. A fence, however, is a bit of an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful garden arrangement.
For a similar setup that is easier to hide, use stakes instead of a full fence. For extra stealth, invest in dark green stakes that will hide amongst the foliage easily. The color and size of the ribbon that you choose will also help with blending in to the environment.
A dark green or black ribbon will work best for hiding in the background. Use a one inch, 115 weight heavyweight cotton twill ribbon. This ribbon will be durable enough to stand up to rigorous weather but gentle enough to allow for growth and expansion (as long as you don’t tie it too tight). Make sure not to constrict air flow to the plant stems when weaving your ribbon through the peony forest.
Other Options for Supporting Peonies
Some larger varieties of peonies can outgrow their support systems. If this is the case with your peonies, there are some other options you can turn to. Any large fence or grate can be cut down to size with the right equipment (heavy duty wire or bolt cutters should do the trick). Bamboo is also a great option for natural looking fence posts or support beams.
Even tree branches might work in place of stakes if money is tight or you are seeking a more natural look. The craftiest gardeners with an eye for decor may come up with other, creative ways to support peonies and improve the look of a garden area. There is no wrong way to support peonies other than not supporting them at all.
Intersectional and tree peonies don’t need any support aside from an occasional brace on an abnormally long branch or two. Herbaceous peonies though, will always need a support system to keep from falling over. Peonies laying on the ground are an all too common sight in gardens around the world. Toppled peonies are hard to deal with, as well, as a gardener, because we know that it is a simple and inexpensive solution that can bring about such a delightful improvement in the overall feng shui of a garden.
The difference that supporting them makes is tremendous and it’s such an easy fix, that it can really drive a serious botanist mad to see peonies all over the ground in an otherwise pleasant plant sanctuary. If you grow peonies, please, don’t procrastinate on getting this done.
Don’t be forced cut them far too early and bring them inside because you waited too long. Your peonies will thank you year after year, with different shades of pink flowers standing tall and proud with their supports. Be proactive and check this task off your to-do list. In the future, you will likely have the same reaction we seasoned horticulturists do when we see our beloved peonies strewn about upon the lawn.