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Julie Peterson
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Well, after yesterdays storms my peonies are not looking their best, but last week they were definitely in their prime! I love watching my peonies peeking up through the ground in the early spring; it reminds me that warmer weather is just around the corner. This year I thought I might take a little time to research one of my favorite flowers, the peony, and answer some of my own questions. You know the ones, I am sure you have had them too. Why do peonies get that ‘sticky’ stuff all over the buds? Why do peonies draw ants? Do they need ants to bloom? Can I split them and transplant them? Do I have to stake them up? The following is what I have found out.
1. Why do peonies get that ‘sticky’ stuff all over the buds? And why do peonies draw ants?  The ‘sticky’ stuff is actually nectar produced by tiny nectarines covering the developing buds. Other than creating a veritable buffet for the ants (it attracts natures own ‘body guards’) I could not find any other reason for the nectar production. The ants will eat the nectar, not the plant, and will actually protect its food source, your peony, from other interested insects that might be harmful to your plant!  
2. Do peonies need the ants to bloom? Simply put, no. The symbiotic, or close, relationship ants have with peonies has nothing to do with peony buds needing ants to open. That is folklore. The peony will not be harmed by the ants, in fact sometimes the ants will actually protect the plant; and why not? It’s sweet, yummy nectar for the ants. Think of them as your allies, standing guard over those precious blooms-to-be.
3. Can I split them and transplant them? Isn’t it amazing, peony plants can live as long as 50 years when taken care of properly. The plants are easily propagated when crown division occurs at the right time.  Divide peonies in the early fall through crown division. Peonies fare better when plant division occurs in the fall before the ground freezes, rather than in the spring.
4. Do I have to use stakes on my peonies? I have always put ‘rings’ around my peonies. The flowers are so heavy, one good rain or more than a slight breeze can push them right over, breaking the stems. Staking is a way to support those heavy flower heads, and should be done early, preferably in spring before buds form. The foliage will grow around the stake and cover it as it supports the heavy flower heads.