How to Ruin Your Peony in Two Minutes
It has come to the Grump's attention that many of you love, love, love peonies. You think about them night and day and worry yourselves sick about their health and welfare. You want to know if the care you're giving them will encourage the production of gargantuan, fragrant flowers again next year with which to torture your jealous neighbors. Thus, I thought you'd be interested in the following question I just received from Ellen in Boaz, Alabama.
"I have some peonies I transplanted from my mom's house," she writes. "They are over 50 years old and beautiful when in bloom. They're not so pretty after the blooms are gone, though. Can I trim down the foliage now?"
Grumpy's heart just skipped a beat. No, Helen, you cannot! Don't even think about trimming your peony's now! If you do, you will get no flowers next year, and that would be a terrible way to thank your mother.
You see, what the leaves do all summer is soak in the sun's rays and convert that energy into food reserves for the peony. It takes a lot of reserves to produce the dozens of eye-popping blooms you've come to expect. Peony foliage needs to bask in full sun from spring until fall. Cut off that foliage beforehand and a bodacious bloomer becomes a flowerless flop.
Put away those pruners for now. Wait until the leaves yellow in fall. That's your sign that the peony's larder is fully stocked and it's OK to trim. Throw out the foliage with the trash to make sure it doesn't harbor diseases and insects over the winter.
Whew, that was a close one, Ellen! What will you do with the two minutes I saved you? Read another funny story in my new book, The Grumpy Gardener? That's a very wise decision.