Step-by-step diagram of how to plant a peony root or bulb

Updated February 21, 2017

Peonies are successful flowers for first-time gardeners and experts alike. One of the hardiest of ornamental flowers, peonies require almost no care at all once established. Simply plant the bulbs in a sunny spot in heavy soil in the autumn and keep them moist until winter. The following spring, they will come in thin, but will fill out over the next few seasons and continue to bloom for a century or more.

Loosen and turn the soil in the garden bed to a depth of 15 cm with a hand tiller or garden fork.

Spread a 5 to 7.5 cm layer of aged compost over the loosened bed.

Mix the aged compost evenly into the top 15 cm of the soil.

Rake the soil smooth.

Plant each peony bulb 1.25 to 5 cm below the soil with its eye facing up and its root tips pointing downward. Take care when handling the peony roots. Their roots are fragile, and breaking them will retard their growth. Dig the holes slightly wider than the bulbs and lay them gently in the bottom before covering them and firming the soil.

Water the soil with a gentle spray of water to moisten it to a depth of 15 to 20 cm. Continue to keep the soil moist to this depth with regular deep watering until the ground freezes in winter.

Cover the planting area with 12.5 to 20 cm of straw mulch when the ground freezes in winter. Remove the mulch in spring when the ground thaws, before the peonies begin to sprout.


Plant your peony bulbs as early in autumn as possible. They need time to put down strong roots before the ground freezes.

Peonies thrive in full sun. They will tolerate light to moderate shade but may not bloom as readily.

Peonies need well-drained soil. If water still puddles five to six hours after a hard rain, choose a better draining spot. Or amend the soil with a generous amount of peat moss and coarse sand to improve drainage.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand tiller or garden fork
  • Aged compost
  • Rake
  • Trowel
  • Straw mulch
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About the Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.