Last updated on March 22nd, 2022
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If you love peonies for the old-fashioned design, brilliant tones, and vigorous design, rest assured there is a way that you can grow a peony directly in a pot, which is brilliant news for anyone who simply doesn’t have the space in their garden.
Growing a peony in a container and pot requires a bit more care compared to growing them in the ground, and you’ll need to choose a big enough container, but it can be done if you are willing to invest the time and a little more effort.
Planting peonies in pots
The peony is well known for its intense colour and large blooms, and container-grown varieties allow you to bring those blooms inside, on your patio, your terrace, or your even your balcony. If you are growing a peony in a pot you have to take into consideration moisture retention. When you are growing a peony you need to make sure that you have a large enough container with well-draining soil. This cannot be stressed enough.
Choosing a container
Part of picking the right container is finding one that’s not only big enough but one that has adequate drainage. More often than not you might have to supply extra drainage by either drilling holes into the bottom of the container or adding things like gravel or crockery as a base layer to help with the drainage. This will also help to prevent the holes from becoming blocked. If you don’t accommodate proper drainage you will end up with rot and they will often not survive winter.
You will need a container that is at least 50-60cm deep and as wide or wider. Remember that peonies are very large bushes and they can stand taller than a metre, so you need to give them plenty of room to grow.
Choosing the right free-draining compost
Once you have picked the container and drilled extra drainage holes just to be on the safe side, you need to consider what soil you will use. The soil needs to be very loose, well-draining but of course fertile. If you can find a mixture of 65% soil-based compost such as John Innes potting compost with 35% perlite that will keep it buoyant and loose, just as your peony needs. You can also mix together gravel with your compost if you want to substitute the perlite.
How to plant a peony
When you plant your peony, put the tuber in the pot in the spring with the eyes facing upwards, and add a few inches of soil over the top. If you plant it any deeper than this it might not bloom and that’s certainly not what you want. At the time you plant your peony you can always add a slow-release fertiliser tablets into the soil to give it an extra boost. Once you plant everything, water it evenly but don’t overwater.
Once your peony is established in its container, it will be particularly tolerant of small dry spells or drought, so you won’t have to worry to much about under-watering. However, pay particular attention to the fact that containers will dry out faster than plants in the ground so you want to always check the top few centimetres of the soil to make sure that it is properly moistened, and if it is dry, then you can add extra water.
Feeding and support
In terms of other regular maintenance, you can add a top-dressed fertiliser (such as growmore) every spring to keep your peony healthy. As it gets larger it might benefit the plant to give it some structure to hold it upright so that the heavy blooms don’t knock your foliage over. You can try using specially designed plant supports as you would in the ground or use canes and twine to keep them upright.
Dividing established plants
After about four or five years you might want to divide your peony because it might be too large for the container and starting to look a little tired. If you do, be advised that you might have a delay in the flowers the following season, however, everything should right itself within two seasons once it’s established itself again.
Protecting pot grown peonies over winter
If you live in a particularly cold area it is in your best interest (and that of your peony) to move the containers into a cold greenhouse over the winter to protect them from freezing rain, frost and snow. If you don’t have a greenhouse then place the container into a sheltered area and wrap the pot in bubble wrap to protect the roots, then add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil and add a layer of fleece.
Diseases and Pests
In containers, you will find that your peony is remarkably resistant to diseases and pests with the exception of root rot which, assuming you follow the directions for proper drainage shouldn’t be a problem either.
Overall a peony is an elegant plant, bringing with it the most stunning flowers every spring and you will be rewarded for decades to come by giving your container-grown peony just a little bit of extra effort.