Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Questions - Peony 'Old Faithful' Slow to Increase

I received this question from Pauline in zone 5b:

"I have a quick question for you regarding Old Faithful, which you seem to grow. What is your increase of stems year over year?

"I planted Old Faithful in fall 2015, along with 14 other varieties of peonies. (Long story short: I've been apartment living in cities for many years and finally moved out to a house. I've always loved peonies and went a little crazy when I could finally grow them!) The first year Old Faithful had two stems and two flowers. This year there seems to be only three large "buds" emerging. I've looked all over and no one mentions that Old Faithful is slow to increase. It is mentioned regarding other cultivators (I.e. Henry Bockstoce). Old Faithful is in a raised bed of amended soil, spaced 3 feet from other peonies, and the other peonies have at least doubled stems year over year."

"I only ask as we are planning to move and I would like to divide and take the plants to our new home. I am hoping Old Faithful has enough eyes to divide. Thanks for your time on this!"

Peony 'Old Faithful' in 2017 with 2 Stems

I must say that I am quite disappointed with this peony plant right now, actually. The increase was great at first, but now it seems to be struggling. Also this plant is in one of my best beds in the yard. It has good access to sun, moisture, and is free from competition. I have grown this Peony 'Old Faithful' since 2008. The stem increase seemed to be good at first, 1 stem (2009), 3 stems (2010), 7 stems (2011), 9 stems (2012), and then it has been steadily declining ever since. I have tried giving it good compost and organic fertilizer since it has started declining, but it has not helped. The next year it went down to 7 stems (2013), 7 stems (2014), 5 stems (2015), and 3 stems (2016). This year it only has 2 stems (2017) on it. Sometimes it may pop up a late stem, but so far, there are only 2 stems on it this year. So I really can't say if your peony will be large enough to divide. If you want to keep it, you may need to just dig the whole thing up and take it with you. This plant has very thick, large stems and a great habit - which make it seem like it should be a great garden plant, but its recent steady decline has really disapointed me. :-(


  1. This one has been a tough one for me as well, and I rarely get the sorts of results that I'd like. Very frustrating when I see how well it does in other locations where it looks vigorous and wonderful. Perhaps it just does better as a young plant? Good as a pollen parent for hybridizing though, even if many of the seedlings are rather late bloomers, like OF itself.

    1. Bob,

      Don Hollingsworth suggested I dig it up to see what was going on underneath it. I have not done that, but I did find some holes near the crown (probably from critters?), which I filled in with top soil. This peony is actually doing really well again this year (2018). It has 12 stems on it and 10 bloom buds. I'm not sure how a peony goes from 2 to 12 stems in one year, but something must have been making it unhappy last year. Whatever that something was must be gone/fixed now.

      It remains to be seen if this peony will keep these gains next year or peter out again, though. I will have to keep that in mind about the pollen. It is a very strong plant with such thick stems and huge leaves. It definitely has some great characteristics to pass on...