Before you start a peony farm for the cut flower market you need to make sure you have the stamina, both physical and financial. Growing peony is a long term investment requiring a lot of physical labor. It usually takes at least 3 years and sometimes in more difficult growing conditions, 5 years before you will harvest your first stem. After growing peony for 13 years now, we have some better idea of what it takes to grow peony in Alaska. Our farm and other newer growers are sharing information with new growers and as a result of better practices, more new farms are harvesting successfully in the third year.
If you’ve convinced yourself you have the stamina to make a go of growing peony, you need to find the best location for your peony farm. Drainage is the number one problem for every phase of growing peony. From my research, folks who have suffered severe losses have all farmed on flat land. The exception to this is weather related. With no snow cover and severe temperatures below zero (-20F or more) losses may occur. Freezing and thawing throughout the winter can also cause roots to heave. We’ve accepted on our farm an unexplained plant loss of 3-5% a year.
A gentle slope is the best type location to grow peony. Even with a slope, it is important to pay attention to water run-off throughout the year,
especially with the spring thaws, and ditch your fields accordingly. Even after 10 years of growing, we are still adding ditches to our existing fields. There is no such thing as too much drainage. While we cannot control the rain, we can make provisions to keep it out of the fields.