Attention Ants! Attack Ahead!!

We sidestepped when entering Indiana, as we left Illinois, to the Hoosier Prairie to visit native plants that few people ever encounter. What wasn’t in the State Park was the Peony – the official state flower of Indiana since 1957. The reason it was missing is that the Peony is not native to Indiana or the eastern United States. Peonies have been cultivated in their native China for thousands of years and about thirty varieties are recognized and grown widely throughout Indiana and the states including Alaska where the long days of the short summer extend the blooming times and the market for cut flowers.

If creepy, crawly ants created their own state, they would choose the Peony as their state flower also.
Biological Mutualism is the name for the relationship between ants and Peonies.

Ants can survive without Peonies and Peonies do just as well without ants. So should you spray insecticide on emerging buds to rid the world of ants? First – you will never get rid of all ants; second – ants chase off blossom eating insects in return for a sticky, sugary treat. Chemicals might damage sensitive pollinators on Peonies and neighboring plants, so I wouldn’t spray Peonies – just enjoy them and let the ants do their job in peace. Bringing cut flowers inside will bring ants and a quick warm water rinse might do wonders for ant removal.

Peonies are relatively easy to grow although their blooming time is short and unsupported stalks will bend to the ground with the larger blooms especially after a Spring rain. Peonies can be white, pink, red, lavender, and probably other colors. I wonder if there are any multi-colored varieties or cultivars? Let’s judge- which ones do you prefer?

This Japanese variety is my favorite!
Red is a charmer!
White Peonies are captivating!

Peonies need sun, little fertilizer, shallow planting, no freezes after bud forms, and sharing with neighbors. Ants are a nice addition and flower staking is a must if you do not use cut flowers. But what about the multicolored varieties?

There are a few multi-colored cultivars and seeds are $2 each. It will take four years to grow a blooming Peony from seed.

So tell me your favorite color and how successful have you been at growing Peonies?

Next we visit Iowa and revisit a species that at least one other state claims as its designated wildflower. This one is a little different but then Iowa is a different kind of state too.

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