Growing peonies and other blooming plants

Published on July 6, 2013

Nurseries and other retail outlets are full of stock — trees and shrubs and annuals, perennials and biennials, so get out and browse around.

Peonies aren’t difficult to grow, but tend to resent being disturbed.  However, once established they will last for years — indeed some have been growing for more than 50 years.

This resentment to moving applies equally to newly bought roots or ones being transferred to a different position in your garden.

Peonies enjoy a good, rich soil dug to a depth of two feet (61 centimetres) if possible, with old manure or compost incorporated. Do not use fresh manure. They prefer sun, but will stand partial shade.

Plant with their dormant eyes about one or two inches below the surface of the final soil level.

If they fail to flower, it could be because they were moved, planted too deep or too shallow, or were given too much nitrogen or a lack of food.

Established peonies can be given a general fertilizer with emphasis on potash. If giving a spring mulch, use garden compost or rotted manure, but keep it away from the new shoots.


Deadheading annuals

Annuals are busy producing flowers and, of course, once the flower dies, seed pods are formed. A common complaint of new gardeners is that their plants were blooming at first and then ceased to bloom.

Plants follow their natural cycle of life and are expected to maintain the continuation of the species by propagation, in this case by seed.

Once the plants have flowered and produced their quota of seed they say, “OK, I have done my job, I can stop flowering now.”

To counteract this, the gardener must pinch off  flowers as they fade. The plant then realizes it has to produce more flowers to reach its quota, and so the summer battle between gardener and annuals continues until the first frost.



These perennial plants have put on a fabulous display of blooms this year.

What now? Let the plants continue to bloom and then let them die. If you look carefully you will see a new bud is already forming at the base of the old flower. If you prune the stem, you lose next year’s flowers.

Once the flowers are dead, you can leave them to drop off, or use one hand to hold the stem and use the finger and thumb of the other hand to twist off the old dead flower.

A lack of flowers could be the result of incorrect pruning.

Most rhododendrons are acid-loving plants and if grown in alkaline soils tend to die, or struggle to survive. In the process they decide not to produce flowers in order to live.

Yellowing leaves may be caused by poor drainage, deep planting and  alkaline soils. The latter can be counteracted by treating the soil with an acid-producing or counter alkaline chemical purchased from your local horticultural retail outlet.

Yellow or brown leaves can be caused by the winter kill of cold winds, where the plant has not gotten established.

Rhododendrons should be fed in the late spring/early summer. Avoid late feeding, as young tender growth will not mature before the cold fall and  winter.

Often the yellow-brown leaves curling downwards is caused by tiny miner insects that burrow in between the upper and  lower surfaces of the foliage and even into the flower buds, causing the change from healthy green. Use a systemic insecticide such as Cygon 2E.

Beech (Fagus) is a deciduous tree grown for its foliage, habit (shape) and flowers. There are also hedge types available, as well as American beech and European beech.


J.J. Strong is a longtime member of the

Newfoundland Horticultural Society.