Tag Archives: planting

Planting, Growing and Caring for Peonies in California

Selecting Sites for Peonies:

One of the most important thing about planting peonies is that need to be sited in well draining soil as they do not like to have wet feet.  They need to be planted in filtered shade in warm climates, if possible, as they will not bloom in full shade and the flowers will have a shorter lifespan when in full sun.  Where they are adapted, they can grow for 100 years, and they do not require regular fertilizer or even water in some cases.  When I plant my peonies, I add compost and peat moss mixed into the soil at planting time and then neglect them as far as further feeding, unless I am adding a mulch between rows.  If you are mulching with shredded paper like newspaper or junk mail, sprinkling on a little nitrogen rich fertilizer over it to help the paper decompose.  Do be careful not to cover the roots of the peony with paper or mulch any deeper than it is planted.  In California and in other warm climates, the buds are planted just below or at ground level.  Do not let fertilizer touch the plant roots or growth or it can burn the peony.

Watering Peonies:

Peonies need lots of water when they are getting established and during the growth period.  After they have been in the ground for a few years, they will take some drought conditions but still need water occaionally.  They should be watered during the periods when they are growing and blooming.  As they will die back and go dormant at the end of the summer, water is not as important after the blooming season is over.

Staking Peonies:

Large, double peonies tend to need staking as the mature plants can get very tall and the weight of the blooms can make the stem flop.  There are several types of aids, individual stakes, circular wire with three legs that encircle the plant and put into place as the plant is sending up stalks.  Another type has a grid where individual stems are coaxed through the mesh in order to keep them in place.  Single peonies need no or less staking than doubles.

Cutting Peonies:

No stems should be cut during the first year of a plant’s bloom. When a stem is to be cut, try to leave as many leaves as is possible so that they can manufacture food and the nutrients can feed the roots at the end of the season.

Cutting Back at the end of the season:

The stems and leaves will dry to brown at the end of the growing season and can be cut away or pulled off when dry. These leaves should be removed to a compost pile rather than being left alongside the plants to avoid gettng disease or fungus. In warm climates, they do not need any top dressing or mulching to protect from cold.

Dividing Peony Clumps:

When dividing the roots, leave 3-5 buds on each division and replant with compost mixed into the soil and water well. This is done in the fall.

Saffron Crocus or Crocus Sativus

Growing and Harvesting Saffron from Crocus Sativus

Most crocus require cold to bloom prolifically and beautifully each year. But there is another crocus which has been around for a long time and which has much different needs and conditions to produce both beauty and a useful product – that expensive spice, saffron.

Saffron Crocus

The saffron that flavors many dishes is from the strands or stamens of this crocus flower.  It is a very expensive spice because of the hand labor in picking enough of these stamens to sell commercially, but at home, you can pick fresh stamens for your cooking.  Cutting or picking the stamens while the bulb is in bloom, will not hurt the bulb.  It looks best planted in masses and in rock gardens.

They grow in zone 5-8 and 8 is just where I am in Glen Ellen in northern California.  Be sure to loosen and prepare the soil with compost, peat moss, and be sure they have good drainage.  Plant them three to four inches down and about two inches apart.  They are an excellent naturalizer and bloom just two to four inches high – like an interesting ground cover!

The color is beautiful with dark purple veining on the lilac petals.  The yellow center with the red strands is very eye catching.  The crocus bulbs are planted with the pointy ends facing up and then watered well.

These will bloom in the autumn and the strands for saffron will be ready to add to savory dishes.

They are wonderful planted in masses and in rock gardens as they are only two to four inches tall.  A wonderful type of grown cover and they naturalize and attract butterflies.

Blushing Beauty

10 Tips for Planting and Growing Tulips

Blushing Beauty Tulip

Before any preparation begins, the tulip bulbs are refrigerated for 6-8 weeks in warm climates.  Take care not to place any apples near them in the cooler and the temprtature should be around 45 degrees.  Do not freeze them!

One
Prepare the soil by digging down about 9”.  The hole should be large enough to hold 5-7 tulips or more depending on your design.  The holes should not be planted in straight lines unless you want them to look like soldiers!  If they are to be a border, they can be planted solidly or in clumps for annuals or other plants to be planted in between.  Plant the bulbs with at least 2” between them.

Two
One tablespoon of bone meal or bulb fertilizer can be added to the bottom of the hole.  Cover the fertilizer with enough soil to allow the bulbs to avoid contact with the bulbs.  I don’t bother to fertilize my own, as I pull the bulbs out after they bloom.

Three
Plant the tulips about 6” below ground level or more shallowly if he bulbs are to be removed after blooming.  The rule of thumb is to plant the bulb 3 times the base to shoulder height of the bulb (measured to the point where it narrows for the top).

Four
Water the bulbs well.

Five
Overplant with violas, forget-me-nots or other annuals on top of the tulips if desired,

Six
Once the bulbs bloom some of the flowers can be cut.

Seven
After the blooms are finished, pull out the old bulbs.  If you wish to leave them in for future bloom, all the stalks and leaves should be left to die back.

Eight
When tulips are grown in fields, the heads are cut off just as they start to bloom to make the bulbs grow larger.  If this is done a second year, they are called “French Tulips” as they product very large flowers and long stems.  Once tulips are allowed to bloom, however, the bulbs divide into several smaller ones.  If the tulip bulbs are left in the ground, only the largest ones may bloom in warmer climates, but not all will re-bloom.

Nine
When I “cut” tulips as cut flowers, I pull gently neat the bottom of the stalk and remove the bulb as well.  Then it can be cut free of the bulb and a longer stem will result.

Ten
If the tulips are to be planted in containers, the bulbs can be planted closer together and up to almost touching.

10 Tips for Planting and Growing Daffodils

One
Prepare the soil by digging down about 9”.  The hole should be large enough to hold 5-7 daffodils or more depending on your design.  The holes should not be planted in straight lines unless you want them to look like soldiers!  I plant my hillsides in a staggered manner to make them look as natural as possible.

Two
One tablespoon of bone meal or bulb fertilizer can be added to the bottom of the hole.  Cover the fertilizer with enough soil to allow the bulb to avoid contact with it.

I don’t bother to fertilize mine as the bulbs are so large and they have a proportionate amount of food.

Three
Plant the daffodil about 6” below ground level if the bulb is very large.  Smaller bulbs are planted more shallowly.  The rule of thumb is to plant it 3 times the base to shoulder height of the bulb (measured to the point where it narrows for the top).  Regardless of how deeply they are planted, the daffodils will bloom, but greater depth helps the bulbs to re-bloom in future seasons.

Four
Water the bulbs in or leave them for the winter rains if the rains are not too long in coming.

Five
If this planting is on a hillside, you can mow the grass before the green stalks of the bulbs come up.  Once they come up, the greenery cannot be mowed or it will affect the quality of the bloom.

Six
Once the bulbs bloom, some of the flowers can be cut, but cutting causes energy loss for replenishing the bulbs strength.

Seven
After the blooms are finished, all the stalks and leaves should be left to die back.

Eight
When all the growth has turned brown, it can be cut down to ground level or left to disintegrate as desired.

Nine
Do NOT braid or tie up the foliage unless you are willing to deplete the bulb and future blooming ability.  It breaks the capillaries!

Ten
The area where the daffodils are planted should not be watered during the summer but allowed to dry out to keep the bulbs strong and viable.

Peonies in Bowl

10 Tips for Planting and Growing Peonies

One
Select the peonies suitable for your areas. Northern climates have the full spectrum to chose from!  Warm weather climates like California and the southern states need to chose single, Japanese singles, semi-double or early doubles so that they will open before it gets too hot.  

Two
Keep them dry and in a cool place while they are dormant until planting.

Three
Good drainage and soil are paramount. Prepare the soil well, as these roots will be in the ground for a long time. Add peat moss, compost and aged manure (no fresh manure) if you have it, and dig it all in well.

Four
Plant the peonies 18″ apart in climates (cold) where they will grow to be large. In warm climates plant them as close as 10″ as they will be smaller if you want a grouped look. Or plant them amid rose bushes and in the perernnial border as they die back to the ground in the winter.

Five
Note: Do NOT plant peonies this deep in warm climate areas!

Planting Depht

In warm climates, plant the pink tipped buds just under gound level so that they receive as much cold as possible. Some people put ice on them, but I have never done so.  In the colder areas, plant them 1 1/2″ deep or 2″ in very cold areas as in the diagram. Peonies grow larger in cold areas and sometimes are huge. This diagram shows the planting depth in the cold north. This may be why so many people in warm climates say that their peonies have never bloomed!

Six
Water them in well when shoots begin to emerge in the spring as this is the most important to get water. Keep them watered during the growth cycle until they finish blooming.

Seven
After they have bloomed, cut back all the brown leaves and stems to the ground.

Eight
Fertilizer maybe added around the plants as they are growing, but they really don’t need to be fertilized.

Nine
Do not spray off the ants with water or kill them with pesticide. They seem to help the buds open, and in warm climates, the buds need to open before it gets too hot.

Ten
Don’t forget to enjoy your successful blooms! You may cut them after the first few years as more blooms have developed on larger plants. This takes longer in warm areas. The foliage and stems return nutrients to the roots for larger plants in following years.