Tips on overwintering peonies


By Kathy Kunemond | PREVIEW Columnist

Your peonies currently may be planted directly in the ground or are growing in containers. Plants that are sown directly in the ground will be more protected from freezing and thawing than one in a container. 

Extra protection may be needed if you decide to leave your peonies in a container and should be considered.

Overwintering plants sown in ground

In the fall, cut the browning foliage of your peonies to the ground or soil level. Mulch accordingly to provide insulation, water retention and control disease problems. September is the best time to transplant established peonies. 

Once you have cut the stems near ground level, dig around and under the plant, retaining as much of the root system as possible. Then plant the peony in well-drained soil in a very sunny site. If there are very large clumps, you will want to divide the clumps using a knife. Each division should have between three and five buds. 

Overwintering container plants

Just like plants sown in the ground, potted plants should be cut to the soil level to remove browning foliage in the fall.

If your container is large and is constructed of material that can withstand freezing and thawing, you can consider leaving your container in its current location. Terracotta pots will not work in this situation. They are susceptible to cracking with extremely cold temperatures. The greater the volume of soil in your container, the greater the amount of insulation for the roots. This is important because the roots are very sensitive to freezing temperatures. Mulch should be added to the top of the container to add additional insulation and protection. The sides of the container can be wrapped in bubble wrap or blankets. The object is to trap as much heat as possible to lessen root damage. 

It is also beneficial to move your containers to protected areas to lessen exposure to wind. Grouping containers together will provide additional protection and insulation. 

When you notice signs of new growth in the spring, remove the outer protective layers, including mulch, and resume normal growing activities.

Smaller containers can be moved into an unheated garage or basement. Light is not needed because the plant will be in dormancy; however, water once a month so the soil does not dry out. In early spring, reintroduce your plants to the outdoors gradually. 

Peonies are easy to grow. They require full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Fertilizing annually in the spring will ensure lovely blooms throughout the growing season. With proper planting and extra care in cold climates, they will provide an abundance of beautiful flowers for years to come.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office, generally on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 246-5931 to register. The last classes of the year will be Dec. 19 and 21. 

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