Can you Grow Peonies in a Pot?

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can you grow peonies in pots

Producing large layered flowers and a delightfully sweet fragrance, it’s no wonder peony plants have been a firm favourite in British gardens for decades. These beautiful plants come in almost every colour, and can live for more than 100 years!

If you’ve not got a huge garden, you may want to consider growing peonies in pots or containers. This can be done at any time of year and, while they may require a little more TLC than other container plants, it’s well worth the effort when they produce a stunning display of flowers in the spring. 

So, to answer the question, yes you can grow peonies in pots! Here’s how. 


7 Tips for Growing Peonies in a Pot

Choose the Right Size Peony

Not all peonies suit being grown in containers, so it’s important to choose the right peony. Smaller peony varieties are best for container growing, such as the Cinnabar Red which grows to around 2 ft tall.

Other good options include the Paeonia Dublin, Paeonia Moscow and Peonia Border Charm. These grow to a maximum of 75 cm, and are great for container growing. 

Choose the Right Pot

It’s important that you select the right container for your peonies. 

The best pot size to start with is one that’s 50 cm deep and 50 cm wide, but you’ll need to move your flowers to a larger container as they grow. 

It’s essential that the pots have plenty of drainage holes. If your pots don’t drain properly, the roots of your peonies may start to rot. You may need to drill extra holes in the pots. 

Materials to look for include wood, clay or plastic. Whiskey barrels are often used as a quirky and fun container, while self-watering pots are more practical. 

Plant in Autumn or Spring

The best time to plant peonies in pots is the autumn, a few weeks before the first frost, but they can be grown at any time of year. 

Peonies love water, so you should ensure the soil is constantly moist. However, they don’t want to be swimming – ensure it’s moist, but not boggy. 

After planting, you should mulch with organic matter. 

Choose a Sheltered but Sunny Spot

Container-grown peonies should be positioned in a sheltered spot, away from strong winds that could potentially blow them over. 

However, it’s important that they get a lot of sun. Choose a spot in full sun or partial shade, in a location that’s easy to water. You should aim for your peonies to get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Good air circulation around the plant is also very important. 

Use Stakes if Needed

Some peonies grow very large flower heads, and it can be difficult for the stalks to support their weight. This is especially true for double-style blossoms, which can get very heavy.

Make sure you set the supports early in the growing season, before the plants reach more than a few inches in height. It can be difficult to set up a support system once the plants are already established and are in full bloom. 

Feed Once per Year

Peonies last a very long time, and those in pots usually require feeding only once a year. This should be done in the spring using good quality organic fertiliser. 

Insulate During the Winter

While peonies love the cold, they won’t be able to withstand more than a few days of freezing conditions. 

If you’ve got a few containers, group them together and place them close to brick or stone walls to help keep them warm. Another options is to wrap insulating materials around the sides of your pots. 

Too much water is also a common problem in the winter due to increased rainfall. Move your peonies to a sheltered spot if you can, repositioning them in the spring.

Peonies need cold weather in order to bloom in the spring, so there’s no need to worry about keeping them warm in the winter, you’ll just need to protect them in freezing conditions. 

Deter Ants with Coffee Grounds 

Coffee grounds are very acidic, while peonies prefer an alkaline soil. However, many gardeners still choose to add coffee grounds to the soil in order to deter ants. 

If you do decide to add coffee grounds to the soil, be careful not to overdo it. While a small amount should help deter ants, too much can make the soil too acidic which will be bad for your peonies.

How to Grow Peonies in Pots

1. Fill your pots with a general purpose compost or potting mix, leaving 2.5 cm of space at the top for water. 

2. Mix water into the potting mix until it’s thoroughly moistened.

3. Place the peony tuber on top of the mix, with the eyes facing upwards. 

4. Fill the container with more potting mix and water thoroughly. The bulbs should be covered with around 2 inches of soil. Those that are buried too deep won’t bloom.

5. Place the container in a sheltered but sunny location. If you’re growing it indoors, place it in front of a south or west facing window 

6. Water when the top inch of potting mix becomes dry – allow the water to drain from the bottom of the container 

7. In the late summer, water the peony less often to encourage dormancy for the winter 

8. Pruning peonies can be done in the winter to prepare them for dormancy, or when there are diseased leaves or stems. To prune, snip just above a healthy bud.


Where do peonies grow best?

In terms of location in the garden, peonies grow best in rich, well-drained soil in full sun. They’re not too fussy when it comes to soil, but they don’t like to sit in water, especially in the winter months. 

If you’ve got poor soil, you can use a general fertiliser to improve it. 

Which month is best to plant peonies? 

This depends on the types of peonies you are planting.

Potted herbaceous bare root peonies and intersectional peonies can be planted at any time of the year, but tend to do best when planted in either late spring or early autumn.

How long does it take to grow peonies? 

Peonies can bloom for over 100 years in optimum conditions, but once planted they can take a while to bloom! 

It’s unlikely that your peonies will bloom the first year after planting, and it may take up to 3 years! Once they’ve bloomed however, you can be confident that year on year you should have a display of beautiful flowers. 

Remember that peonies are fairly low maintenance, and only need feeding once a year. 

Why are my peonies not blooming? 

Failure to bloom is most commonly caused by either planting too deep or insufficient light. However, there’s a few other reasons your peonies may not be blooming. 

Planting too Deep

When planting your peonies, the eyes should be no more than 2” deep. The buds emerging from the crown of the peony should be just below the soil surface.

Insufficient Light 

You should ensure your peony gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, as they won’t flower if they are left in a shaded spot. 

Abnormal Weather

If your peony is producing buds that rot before flowering, it could be that the weather in the spring is to blame. Cold, heavy showers or periods of drought can damage your peonies, as can a number of hard frosts.

You should ideally move your peonies to a sheltered spot to prevent waterlogging, and if the temperature regularly drops below freezing, you should insulate your pots. 

Growing in too Small Containers

While it’s easily possible to grow peonies in a pot, some are simply happier in a bed or border. 

Peonies like to develop a very large root system, and will become pot bound if the pots are too small. This makes it harder for the plants to absorb nutrients and water, meaning they may not flower the following spring. 

If you think this is the case, you should transfer your peonies to a larger pot, remembering that they can take a while to settle once moved. 

Ensure that you are using peonies that are happy to be planted in a container, it should say on the label of the peonies you purchase. 

Incorrect Watering

Any gardener or houseplant owner will know the damage that can be done by incorrect watering. While peonies aren’t particularly fussy, you should ensure that the pots have very good drainage. Do not allow water to sit at the base of your peonies. 

Despite being drought-tolerant, you should still ensure the flowers get enough water. Prolonged dry spells in the spring may prevent your peonies from blooming.

Remember that it’s unlikely your peonies will flower the first year after planting, so you may just need a little patience! 

How do you treat peony disease? 

While insects and pests aren’t too much of an issue when it comes to peonies, there’s a couple of diseases worth keeping an eye out for. 

Powdery mildew can affect peonies and other plants. This fungal disease causes peonies to develop a white coating. If you spot it, cut away the leaves and stems that are suffering. You could treat heavier infections with horticultural oil or neem oil. 

Peony wilt is another disease, this one more deadly. This causes the stems to wilt and eventually die. If you notice black or brown spots on the leaves and stems, as well as buds failing to open, peony wilt is the most likely cause. 

There’s no chemical treatment for peony wilt. Instead, you’ll need to remove all infected material and dispose of it. This will help prevent the disease from spreading. Once established, this is difficult to control, so you should keep an eye out for the symptoms. 

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