Itoh peonies, also known as intersectional peonies, are beautiful hybrid flowers that combine the best characteristics of herbaceous and tree peonies. These plants develop below the soil as normal peonies (easy to divide) and above the soil as tree peonies. This results in the ultimate garden peonies, one with a high decorative value. After several years, it is not unusual for the plant to produce fifty or more flowers! Here are some tips on how to grow and care for Itoh peonies:
1. Planting location: Choose a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Ensure the soil is well-draining, fertile, and rich in organic matter. Avoid areas with excessive moisture or standing water.
2. Planting time: Plant Itoh peonies in early fall or early spring. This allows the plants to establish their root systems before extreme weather conditions.
3. Planting depth: Dig a hole that is wide and deep enough to accommodate the peony's roots comfortably. Place the peony crown (the point where the roots and shoots meet) no more than 1.5-2 inches below the soil surface.
4. Watering: Provide regular watering during the growing season, especially in dry periods. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot.
5. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and provide insulation during winter.
6. Fertilizing: In early spring, apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer or compost around the base of the plant. Follow the product instructions for application rates. Avoid applying excessive nitrogen, as it can result in weak stems and fewer flowers.
7. Pruning: Remove spent flowers by cutting them back to a healthy leaf or stem junction. In late fall or early spring, cut the stems back to the ground level to promote new growth and maintain a tidy appearance.
8. Supporting the plant: Itoh peonies have sturdy stems but may benefit from support as the flowers develop. Install stakes or hoops early in the season to provide support and prevent the stems from bending or breaking under the weight of the blooms.
9. Pest and disease control: Itoh peonies are generally resistant to common pests and diseases. However, it's important to monitor for issues such as leaf spot or botrytis. Remove any affected foliage and ensure good air circulation around the plants to prevent disease development.
10. Winter protection: Itoh peonies are hardy plants, but in colder regions, you can protect them during winter by applying a layer of mulch or using a protective covering. This helps insulate the plant and protect it from extreme temperature fluctuations.
By following these care tips, you can enjoy the stunning blooms and long-lasting beauty of Itoh peonies in your garden. Remember to be patient, as these plants may take a few years to reach their full blooming potential.