Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

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Why did my peonies fail to bloom?

Among the most beautiful and most reliable of all perennial flowers are peonies. They provide large fragrant flowers in the spring and attractive foliage all season long. If left undisturbed, plantings of peonies may continue blooming for many decades.

For success with peonies, choose a sunny site with well-draining soil. Dig a hole that is 1 to 1½ feet deep with equal width. Incorporate organic matter into the soil that you have dug. Choose peony divisions that have three to five eyes. Plant so that the uppermost eye is 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface--this is critical. Replace the soil, tamp it and water thoroughly.

Sometimes peonies fail to bloom. The most common reasons for this are the following: The plants are too small and have fewer than three eyes. The plants are planted too deep. The plants have too much competition from surrounding trees and shrubs. The plants have too much shade which encourages tall leafy peonies with no blooms. Too much nitrogen fertilizer was applied which encourages foliage but not flowers. Plants are undernourished, weak and small.

If your peonies fail to bloom, check to see if one or more of these factors may be the cause of the failure.

A common disease of garden peonies is botrytis blight or gray mold. Leafy shoots may wilt suddenly and fall over. Black or brown rot may be noticed at the base of the affected shoots. Flowers may begin to open, only to turn brown or develop a covering of gray mold. Control botrytis blight by sanitation, removing all foliage and stems from the bed every fall, following a hard frost. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to treat the plant with an appropriate fungicide, according to label directions.

Do not confuse botrytis blight with bud blast. Bud blast refers to a condition where the flower buds develop to the size of a small pea but then dry up and fail to open. The causes for this condition may be several, including infertile soil, too-deep planting, excessive shade, dry spells, and cold weather injury frequently associated with late spring frosts.

You often have to be a good detective to be a good gardener. Analyze problems carefully before trying to cure them.