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Beginner Flowers: Peonies and moss

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tikva18
Chicago, IL
(Zone 5b)

June 3, 2008
12:03 AM

Post #5042994

I was thinking of planting peonies on the side of my house. Nothing is growing there right now except for weeds and moss. Is the moss a good indicator of standing water? therefore, would that be a poor placement for peonies? If that is the case, what would you suggest to plant instead.
Many Thanks!
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 3, 2008
1:40 AM

Post #5043674

I think peonies like lots of sun, and moss typically likes shade, so I'd worry that the peonies might not get enough light in that location regardless of moisture levels. Moss doesn't usually grow in super dry areas, so having it there means there is some moisture but it doesn't necessarily mean standing water. However it's worth figuring out exactly how moist the area typically is before you plant anything there--it could be a place that's just fine for most shade tolerant plants, or it could be a wetter area which would narrow your possibilities a bit.
tikva18
Chicago, IL
(Zone 5b)

June 3, 2008
2:51 AM

Post #5044066

The area seems to get a fair amount of afternoon sun - for sure I'd call the area at least 'part sun'. Any idea how to figure out how much moisture is there? I didn't realize that moss indicated shade.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 3, 2008
3:00 AM

Post #5044109

Typically moss doesn't grow in sunny locations, but I'm sure there are different types of moss and maybe some of them are more sun tolerant than others. Or maybe this was a temporary thing during the cooler months and as the summer warms up the moss will go away. To check moisture, I'd keep an eye on the area for a few weeks--watch and make sure that water doesn't puddle up there when it rains, and when it's been a while after it rained and the ground's had a chance to dry out, stick your finger a few inches down in the soil and see if it still feels really wet. I don't grow peonies so I have no idea how much moisture they tolerate.
TMaple
Saint Paul, MN

June 3, 2008
3:06 AM

Post #5044152

My peonies are in full sun all day long against my house. I don't think they like to be over watered because the ground gets dry and they flourish, but the tubers are around 30 years old so they are very deep and established. My advice would be to put them in full sun for most of the day and water moderately.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

June 3, 2008
3:08 AM

Post #5044168

There are all different forms of mosses, but the common old garden one we all hate in our gardens are caused by either poor light levels as Ecrane has said, or too much moisture being held within the soil, how to tell for water levels is to dig up a clump of soil, get a handful and squeeze it, if moisture comes out, your soil is water logged, if it sticks together in your hand it is damp and possible clay, if it crumbles when you try rub it, then your problem is not enough light/sun getting to the area, another way to test for water logged soil is to remove a spade deep of soil, pour a bucket of water into the hole and watch how fast it drains away, if it almost runs right through the soil at the bottom of the hole, then your soil is not holding onto water, but if it stays in a puddle for longer than 2 mins, then you have either clay soil or some other form of barrier that is causing the drainage problems, but test a few areas on this side of the house as soil can differ from a few yards apart. the lack of drainage could be clay as said before, or builders rubbish from when the house was built or it just needs digging as the soil could be so compacted that water is just laying on the top and cant drain away as the soil is so compact, so the best thing to do is test your soil.
As for peonies, they like to be grown in full sun where there tubers are planted just no more than an inch under the top soil where the sun can bake them, any deeper and they dont flower at all but you get lush greenery.
No mater what is causing your moss to grow in this area and I suspect Ecrane is right about the lack of light so late in the day, there is flowers and plants for any conditions, be it a moisture problem, lack of good sun light as there are plants that need shade, or plants that love moist soil, so once you know the problems, then let us know and we can all help you brighten up this area of the garden, good luck. WeeNel.
tikva18
Chicago, IL
(Zone 5b)

June 3, 2008
3:27 AM

Post #5044281

tomorrow I'll go out and stick my hand in and check it out. For sure the soil is clay - that's all that is around here. How moist it is, remains to be seen.
Do you have any suggestions for what would be nice to plant there? (based on what I've said so far?)
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

June 3, 2008
3:42 AM

Post #5044373

I will get back to you later with a list, but if it is clay you have, you can correct the texture by adding as much compost / manure as you can get hold of, this gets dug into your soil and it helps to feed the soil, then also breaks up the large clumps of clay, it wont happen over night, but over a few years of adding this stuff, you will eventually get a good soil for most plants that like part sun but mostly shade, another thing that helps break up clay soil is adding garden lime over the winter, it helps to sweeten the soil and break up the clay lumps after you dig the soil, just sprinkle the lime on top of the large clumps and the winter weather will help take the lime down into the soil, I dont think you can be impatient with trying to improve the soil texture as it can only happen over a few years of digging and adding to the soil, but that dont mean you cant start your garden and planting as I said, there are plants for all types of soil and conditions, I will get my books out and find you a good list of plants to get your head around this area so you wont feel to despondent about it, clay puts most folks off gardening, yet it shouldn't be like that if you choose the right plants for these conditions. It's really late here in UK so I will get back to you tomorrow, but I am sure others will be helpful too. Good luck. WeeNel.
tikva18
Chicago, IL
(Zone 5b)

June 4, 2008
2:08 AM

Post #5049215

Unfortunately, today it rained - so i still have no guage of how wet that area is normally.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 4, 2008
2:13 AM

Post #5049240

It actually might be good that it rained, now you can figure out how long the area takes to dry out. And it's important to look at it in the rain too, if there's a big pool of standing water there when it's raining then some plants aren't going to enjoy that so it helps you make your choices.
trioadastra
Ellsworth, WI
(Zone 4a)

June 4, 2008
8:19 PM

Post #5053309

I know a lot has already been said here, but just for the record, I have peonies growing in full shade, right next to the hostas, and they bloom prolifically. I also have some that get morning sun only, in an area that is always moist, with clay soil, and they are huge and happy. Also have more on a slope in full sun and they like it there too... Not very picky, IMO.
bethanski
Rochester, NY

June 10, 2008
5:18 PM

Post #5082999

My peonies are growing in partial shade (morning sun only) right next to a bunch of moss, and they both do very well. My next-door neighbors have their entire yard - in full sun - lined with peonies: those look great also. They're all blooming right now and are beautiful. I am certainly partial, but I say go for the peonies. (Just be aware that they attract ants, so don't plant them on an exterior wall next to a kitchen or dining room...)
TMaple
Saint Paul, MN

June 11, 2008
10:31 AM

Post #5086341

They do attract ants, and make sure if you plant peonies you let the ants be. They are the reason the peonies bloom. My neighbor one year put ant killer all around her house one year and hardly got a bloom. If you want to put down some sort of ant pesticide wait until after the peonies bloom.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 11, 2008
1:59 PM

Post #5087044

From what I've read, the thing about ants being necessary for peonies to bloom is a myth, peonies that don't have some other sort of problem will bloom even if there aren't ants on it. If a peony has problems with its buds for some other reason then the nectar won't be there that the ants are looking for so they won't come around, and that's probably what led people to think that the ants were necessary for the buds to open, but in reality there were other reasons why the plant wasn't blooming. So the ants aren't necessary, but they're not harmful either so there's really no need to get rid of them except to remove them from cut flowers before you bring them inside)
http://www.paeonia.com/html/peonies/about.htm#4
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/newsrel/2002/apr02/apr0208.html
http://the-garden-muse.blogspot.com/2007/01/in-praise-of-peonies.html

TMaple
Saint Paul, MN

June 11, 2008
2:29 PM

Post #5087206

Seems strange that my neighbor would only have the problem with her peonies not blooming the one (and only) year she got rid of the ants. Every other year they have done just fine. Anyway, myth or not, I have heard from many people that the ants and blooms go hand in hand with their peonies too. I'm not expert, but I would leave the ants alone.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 11, 2008
2:57 PM

Post #5087342

They do go hand in hand in the sense that when the peonies are blooming or getting ready to bloom there will typically be ants around, I think that's probably how the myth got started in the first place. But the ants aren't contributing to the process, just reaping the benefits of the nectar.
WeeNel
Ayrshire Scotland
United Kingdom

June 13, 2008
3:24 AM

Post #5096283

There is no truth in the myth that peonies need ants to flower at all, Mine flower each year and no ants are anywhere close to them, in fact if I did see ants, I would be worried as the only flowers I find ants on are my climbing roses, the ants live off the sticky mess that greenfly leave as deposits on the roses, so the ants dont want the pollen, they want the sticky sugary substance so they actually protect the ants on the roses, there are several reasons for non flowering Peaonies, one is the tuber has been burried too deep in the soil, so lift them and replant just under the soil and where the sun can bake the tubers, soil not rich enough in nutrients as these tubers are greedy feeders and like well fed, or there has been mulch added over the tubers for winter protection and not removed soon after spring started, as for bud forming and not flowering, there is a peony blight that turns the buds brown before the flowers open, there is also a mould that causes very simmiler conditions, but once you have peaonies that flower, they have been known to flower in the same spot for 50/60 years without harm. once established, they dont like disturbed, but if need be you can move them to the same conditions, the same deapth in the soil and they will flower again, some folks are very lucky and old plants can flower again the following year, but most will take a year or two to settle down to flower again, the very old speices are hard to move, but the newer strains are faster to reestablish again when moved. so believe me when I tell you if I have ants in my flowers I know to look for greenfly, good luck. WeeNel.
JPride1127
Detroit, MI

June 13, 2008
3:30 AM

Post #5096314

my peonies were fertilized with a systemic fertilizer to feed and protect from bugs and disease, the thing was covered with dead ants (not my intention) but it bloomed just as good as it always has, I think the ant thing is really a myth.
TMaple
Saint Paul, MN

June 13, 2008
10:59 AM

Post #5097038

I am not much of a flower gardener at all, and even that's giving me too much credit. I don't do anything with my peonies and they bloom like crazy every year. I know its a myth and the peonies bloom without the ants but mine are always covered with ants long before the buds start oozing their sticky nectar. Makes me wonder, even with all the evidence to the contrary, why the ants would show up before the meal is ready:) I don't really care one way or the other as long as they keep blooming.

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