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peony: why your peony won't bloom

by dig the dirt editor

Of all garden bloomers, peonies easily give some of the longest, splashiest rewards for the most minimal care. These fragrant beauties are mostly pest- and disease-free. The most common complaint that gardeners share is that plants fail to bloom. If that’s the case with your garden’s peony patch, troubleshoot the issue with our help.


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Your plants may be too young:

  It’s normal that young plants yield only a few short flower stems the first year of growth. Blossoms that unfold may only be a dim shadow of the full-blown beauties they may become. In the second year, flower number and form will improve until, in the third year, the bloom show will be absolutely lovely. Don’t be discouraged while you wait for your peonies to become the beauties of the garden; the plants will reward you with years of breathtaking blooms.

Soil is too dry. Peonies planted closely to established trees and shrubs may end up battling for water in the soil. If this is the case, not only will blooms fail to appear, but leaf number will also be reduced. Water plants deeply throughout the growing season to improve the odds for next year’s flower show. A soaker hose is perfect for this task. Peonies planted too closely to trees may also be shaded too much to bloom.


Divisions buried too deeply. Eye divisions should only be planted 2 inches deep. If plants don’t bloom, peonies may be more than 2 inches below soil level. Dig up divisions carefully with a perennial planter and replant them at the right depth.

Spring runs hot. If afternoons and evenings are excessively hot during the time that flower buds are forming, blossoms will abort. There’s not much you can do about that, save wait until next year.

Flower buds killed. A late frost or fungal disease can kill flower buds and cut off your peony’s bloom potential. If fungus is the problem, buds will be covered with fuzzy mold or rotting spots. Treat plants with a fungicide labeled for peonies.


Plants are too crowded. As peonies age and grow larger, plantings can become overcrowded, which will decrease bloom numbers. If this is the case, you'll need to dig up clumps and divide them. The best time to do this is in late summer or early fall. Use a perennial planter or lifter to get clumps out of the ground; a pair of garden forks is perfect for prying plant clumps apart. Cut root clumps into divisions containing at least three eye buds. Use a sharp knife. Replant divisions no more than 2 inches below the soil surface.


peony care, troubleshooting peonies, questions about peonies