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General Questions

Peony/Tree Peony Specific Questions


General Questions

Can I visit your farm? Where are you located?
Klehm's Song Sparrow Perennial Farm is a wholesale nursery and retail mail-order operation located in rural southeast Wisconsin. Regrettably, restricted staff and facilities do not allow us to entertain visitors.

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What is your guarantee?
We work hard to raise and ship only healthy, well-grown plants that are in prime condition for successful planting. We guarantee to ship plants that are true to variety, healthy, and viable when we ship them. We cannot be held responsible for losses due to extreme weather or soil conditions, improper storage conditions, delayed planting, or improper climate plantings. We do not substitute any varieties without your permission. Please open the boxes promptly upon receipt. Please report any shipping damages or missing items within 48 hours after receipt of your packages (1-608-883-2356).

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Do I need to plant my purchases as soon as they arrive? How should I store them if I'm not able to plant right away?
Unpack your plants as soon as possible after receiving them. Ideally, plant within one or two days having prepared your ground for planting prior to the arrival of your plants. After unpacking, and prior to planting ensure that the potting mix is moist- if not, water thoroughly until water drains through the holes in the bottom of the pot. If you are unable to plant for several days place container grown plants in an airy, lightly shaded location, making sure that the potting soil never dries out. Bare root daylilies and peonies can by temporally planted ("heeled in") in a loose, moist soil and lightly shaded location. We do not recommend holding plants in containers for prolonged periods or if you're unable to plant in the ultimate location, plant in another location and move to the final position at a later date.

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Do I need to fertilize? When? What kind? How much?
Never apply fertilizers without establishing the basic chemical composition of your soil. In order to determine if your soil is deficient in key nutrients you should have it analyzed. This service is offered, usually at a modest fee by your local Cooperative Extension Service, listed under the government services in your local telephone directory. The test indicates levels in your soil of the three major nutrients; Nitrogen(N) important for foliage and flower production, Phosphorus (P) important in root growth plus fruit and seed development and Potassium (K) critical for plant growth and disease resistance. The test report will provide recommendation for correcting nutrient deficiencies by specific fertilizer applications.

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When should I prune? What and how much should I prune?
Pruning methods are dependent on the plant question. Pruning of a formative nature is primarily undertaken to maintain a specific form and/or size. This basically involves the removal of dead and unwanted growth and is normally carried out during winter in the dormant period for most woody plants. Formative pruning is normally an annual operation but many quicker growing subjects used as hedges require more frequent attention. Techniques for pruning many flowering shrubs are dependent on their flowering season. Early season bloomers (i.e.: Forsythia) produce flowers on growth produced during the previous year and branches should be pruned back from ½ to 2/3 of their length immediately after flowering. Generally it is best to totally remove branches 4 or 5 years old. Many later season bloomers (i.e.: Roses) form flowers on growth made during the dormant season and these should be pruned hard during the dormant season after the danger of frost has passed. This will encourage maximum new growth early in the year. Pruning evergreens is also best carried out during late winter and early spring.

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What winter care do my perennials require?
In regions with cold winter climates (Zones 2-5) alternate freezing and thawing of the soil can cause the heaving of recently planted perennials and shrubs out of the ground resulting in physical damage to their roots and exposing them to drying winds and freezing temperatures. Prior to the onset of winter make sure that plants installed during the past year are firmly fixed in the ground by applying pressure with the heel of ones boot around the crown or stem. A loose 4"-6" layer of leaves, straw or short evergreen branches should then be placed over the plants in late November or early December once the ground is frozen. Avoid covering the crowns of such evergreen perennials as Dianthus and be sure to remove the protective covering by early spring.

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What is the difference between hardy hibiscus and hibiscus?
The term hardy hibiscus encompasses both shrubby and perennial types that are hardy in their assigned zones. Many of the newer hardy perennial Hibiscus are the result of hybridizing hardy and less hardy North American native species. In contrast to the hardy selection there are numerous colorful, large flowered, tender or annual selections.

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What is the difference between Azaleas and Rhododendrons?
Botanically all Azaleas are now included in the genus Rhododendron. There are not clearly defined differences between the two genus but most true Rhododendrons are evergreen with flowers displaying 10 stamens while Azaleas are mostly deciduous with flowers having mostly 5 stamens.

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Peony/Tree Peony Specific Questions

If a peony is not noted as fragrant, is fragrance lacking?
Most peonies exhibit some fragrance with fully double varieties frequently more fragrant than single or semi-double varieties. Our most strongly fragrant varieties are indicated in the catalog text.

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What is the difference between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies?
Herbaceous peonies die down to the ground level in fall with new growth emerging in spring. Tree peonies are shrubs producing woody shoots that remain above ground year round.

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Do I need to use peony cages?
Our exclusive custom manufactured metal peony cages are ideal for restricting untidy natural growth frequently observed in weaker stemmed older varieties especially during periods of inclement windy, wet weather. Selecting our own healthy, strong-stemmed varieties and planting them in a sheltered location should help alleviate floppy growth.

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Are some peonies hardier than others?
No, generally all herbaceous peonies are hardy from Zones 2-8 with single and semi-double varieties displaying greater tolerance of heat and humidity in Zones 7-8. Tree peonies are slightly less hardy, suitable for Zones 4-8.

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Which peonies have the strongest stems?
Most of the newer herbaceous peonies have strong stems when compared to many of the older varieties. All Klehm Estate Peonies exhibit strong stems outstanding for outdoor and indoor display.

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When is the best time to move peonies?
Fall is the best season to move peonies when they are dormant. Plants are then positioned to produce a maximum of new feeder roots during fall and early spring.

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When do I cut my peony back?
During fall as the plant enters dormancy. Remove and destroy all old foliage to reduce the potential of disease. Never compost old stems and foliage.

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What winter treatment do herbaceous and tree peonies require?
Following the fall clean up of old stems and foliage and the removal of any remaining summer mulch, herbaceous peonies require no special winter treatment. During winter the plant accumulates chilling hours to ensure breaking dormancy in spring. In most northern areas (Zone 4) the woody stems of tree peonies can be protected from severe cold by a covering of burlap or dried leaves enclosed in a porous outer covering. Be sure to remove any winter protection by late winter or early spring to prevent any abnormally early bud break.

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Do deer eat herbaceous or tree peonies?
Herbaceous peonies are toxic to deer and rabbits and are generally immune to damage. Tree peonies are eaten by deer and rabbits.

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Do peonies require deadheading?
Generally not. Some herbaceous peonies have ornamentally attractive seed heads that are best left until their ornamental display finishes. Deadheading, removing the spent blossoms together with a pair of leaves below the flower greatly enhances the aesthetic appearance of peony plants.

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What packing material is used? Can it be used as mulch?
Our herbaceous peonies are packed in damp, sterile Cedar Shingletoe. It retains moisture around the peony roots during shipping and the period prior to planting. It can be used as a mulch, which should not be applied until spring.

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Peonies require full sun. Define the term full sun and any daily variations?
In northern areas (Zones 2-6) herbaceous peonies thrive with between 6-8 hours of sunshine. Further south (Zones 6-8) we recommend between 4-5 hours of direct sunshine with the plants receiving light shade during the hottest period of the day. i.e. Early to mid-afternoon.

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Why does my peony change its flower color?
Although an uncommon occurrence with peonies, a variety may occasionally produce a different colored flower to those typical of the variety or phenomenon known as "sporting". It occurs throughout the plant world and is caused by a natural genetic bud mutation, which alters some chromosomes changing the flower color. Such changes can be initiated by a number of factors including excessive heat, radiation and pollution or other unknown factors. Some peony varieties are probably more prone to "sporting" than others.

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What are the black spots on my peony?
The fungal disease Leaf Blotch, Measles or Red Stem Spot affects peonies especially in the midsection of North America. Dark purple/black spots occur on the surface of the upper leaves while elongated reddish brown stripes can occur on young stems. Consult a reputable local garden center or your County Extension Service for the most recent recommended control measures.

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For more information please refer to Order Information and/or Plant Information.

Frequently Asked Questions

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