Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Stop the Flop: No-Stake Peonies

Floppy peonies should be a thing of the past: it’s a disgrace they’re still being sold!

Ask any gardener and he’ll insist that peonies need staking. Yet that isn’t at all true. There are hundreds of peonies with sturdy stems that never need staking, even in windy or rainy weather. Why is it then that so many garden varieties are naturally floppy?

Call it “commercial inertia”. Garden centers still sell old-fashioned peonies from back in the 1890s and early 1900s. These were the first double peonies to reach the market and it would appear that no one at that time cared whether peonies were floppy or not. Hybridizers have had over a century to work on the problem and turn out stupendous peonies with sturdy stems, and they have done so by the hundreds, yet the old varieties are still the most widely sold.

That’s largely because old-fashioned floppy peonies are produced on a massive scale by underpaid workers in China, reaching North America at rock-bottom prices. Therefore garden centers can make a bigger profit from selling them instead of quality peonies produced in North America.

If your local garden center sells only junk peonies, why not get yours from a peony specialist? Most sell by mail-order, so you can get top-quality, non-floppy peonies no matter where you live. The better sources include hints about the peony’s stem in their descriptions: “sturdy stems”, “strong stems”, “no staking needed”, “good growth habit”, “Staking: no”, etc. And if you’re not sure, ask before you buy: these companies know their peonies and will be pleased to help.

Here are a few nurseries to try:

United States:
Contrary Mary’s Plants and Designs
Peony Farm
White Flower Farm

Pivoinerie D’Aoust
Pivoines Capano
Parkland Perennials

Upright Peonies for Laidback Gardeners

Here are a few peonies with sturdy stems you just might find in a local garden center:

  • ‘Athena’

    ‘Bowl of Beauty”: just one example among hundreds of sturdily upright peonies.
  • ‘Alexander Woolcott’
  • ‘Big Ben’
  • ‘Blaze’
  • ‘Bowl of Beauty’
  • ‘Bride’s Dream’
  • ‘Buckeye Belle’
  • ‘Bu-te’
  • ‘Claire de Lune’
  • ‘Cora Louise’
  • ‘Coral ‘n Gold’
  • ‘Dandy Dan’
  • ‘Do Tell’
  • ‘Etched Salmon’
  • ‘First Arrival’
  • ‘Flame’
  • ‘Garden Treasure’
  • ‘Gay Paree’
  • ‘Gold Standard’
  • ‘Jacorma’
  • ‘Julia Rose’
  • ‘Krinkled White’
  • ‘Laura Dessert’
  • ‘Lavender’
  • ‘Le Charme’
  • ‘Mahogany’
  • ‘Nice Gal’
  • ‘Paula Fay’
  • ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’
  • ‘Red Red Rose’
  • ‘Roselette’
  • ‘Roy Person’s Best Yellow’
  • ‘White Sands’

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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