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ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q Our lovely, single, pink peony has stopped blooming. It has been growing in the same spot for about 10 years. The past two springs it has not even set buds. It must be trying to tell me some-thing. B.Q.H.

Birmingham, Mich.

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Although peonies will grow for many years without need of transplanting, older, crowded beds may benefit from lifting clumps and moving to a well-prepared soil.

If stems and foliage are still sturdy looking, it is probably getting enough sun.

However, sometimes a nearby tree, which was small at the time peonies were planted, may take gardeners by surprise when they find it has grown large enough to cast a shadow a good part of the day. Peonies need at least six hours of direct sun.

Lack of fertilizer could be a problem. It is best to fertilize yearly, preferably in early spring. One pound of 5-10-5 or 4-12-4 analysis per 25 square feet will give enough phosphorus (the middle digit) for bud formation.

If you decide to transplant, spade soil to a depth of about 12 inches and mix in some rotted manure or compost with the soil (about a half-bushel to 10 square feet). Divide clump in half, if you wish.

Plant by hand at a depth that leaves pink buds only about 1 inches below soil level. Planted too deeply, peonies won't bloom. Water gently but thoroughly after planting. If you transplant before leaves die down, cut off beforehand.

Peonies can be planted in fall or early spring. We have a peony bed that has thrived in the same spot for 25 years.

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If your plant gets enough sun and is not crowded by other plants, we would leave it in place another year, giving it a feeding in early spring and ample water during dry spells. We bet it will bloom again.

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