You've waited years for your peony plant to finally bloom. One glorious spring day, the plant is covered in gorgeous, ruffly, perfumed flowers. All the waiting was worth it! You're in peony heaven. But it rains in the night, and when you come out to your garden, all those blossoms, those works of plant art, are face down in the mud.
Many varieties of peony have tall, long stems and huge flowers. This can be a recipe for flopping. How can you prevent this?
As with any living thing that people have been cultivating for centuries, different varieties of peonies have been bred for different uses. Some are specifically bred for long stems that can be used in the cut flower trade. These aren't left in the field long enough to flop. Some have been bred to be shorter and stockier, specifically to avoid the problem of flopping. And many have been bred for fragrance or bloom with no regard to the shape of the plant.
In general, mature peonies range in size from 24 to 36 inches or so. Those on the smaller end of this range may be more suited for the landscape, and more likely to hold their own heads up.
Itoh peonies, a hybrid between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies, have more of a woody framework than their herbaceous parents. This makes them more sturdy and much less likely to flop. They're more expensive than herbaceous peony plants, because they're still relatively rare, but they have some attractive qualities like this.
A simple answer to the flopping problem, if you do have a variety prone to it, is staking. Several types of wire peony rings are available. Push the legs into the soil around your peony plant before it grows up in the spring, and the plant will grow through the ring and be supported. Wooden stakes and string are another viable option.
Whatever you use, remember that you'll need to clean up the dead top growth at the end of the season. A removable staking solution might be the most practical.
And once we have a flop-prevention plan, we won't mind if it rains. Our blooms will keep on looking up.
Photo from BeyondBehnkes.com