Can You Plant Peonies Close to Your House?

Peonies arguably have the most beautiful blooms in their prime, making any home gardener want to have them in their gardens. However, there may be some downsides to growing peonies so close to your home.

You cannot plant peonies close to your house because they can attract insects like ants and cause an infestation in your home. Moreover, these plants contain toxins that can harm your pet cats and dogs. Peonies also need full sun, so the shade from the house can be counterproductive.

Although it seems discouraging, it is better to be safe than sorry. You can still grow peonies in your garden, but you must keep them a safe distance away. However, if you are eager to grow them closer to your house, there are some countermeasures you can take, and I will discuss them in more detail below.

Reasons to Avoid Planting Peonies Close to Your House

You may have seen home gardens with peonies planted so close to their house. While that is enviable, some things make the setup less than ideal. More often than not, they may advise you against doing the same.

You shouldn’t plant peonies close to your house to avoid attracting ants into your home after your peonies have spent their blooms. Also, planting peonies too close to your house will provide them unnecessary shade from the wall and pose a risk for pets who may ingest the toxic plant. 

Let’s look at these reasons in more detail below:

Ants Are Attracted to the Sugary Nectar of Peonies

While it’s common for flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, peonies tend to attract ants. These ants do not inflict damage on peonies. They are only attracted to and feed on the sugars produced by the flowers while protecting them from pests, creating a mutualistic relationship.

However, once the flowers die, the ants may move elsewhere to find food, making your house an easy target. If you plant your peonies close to your walls, the ants will most likely invade your home for more food.

Also, if you cut the flowers to place them in vases for display inside your home, you may be bringing the ants along. Be sure to spray water on the base of the flower while holding it upside down to remove the ants before taking the flower indoors.

Otherwise, these ants may send signals to others to invade your home.

Peony Bark Is Toxic to Cats and Dogs

Although attractive, peonies can pose serious threats to your beloved pets. The beautiful flowers may attract your pets to nibble on them. While the flowers are less poisonous, the barks contain high levels of a toxin called paeonol that can cause stomach upset in your pets.

Symptoms of paeonol toxicity include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargy

If you have pets running around in your garden regularly, it may be best not to grow peonies. Cats and dogs are known to nibble on plants for self-medication or simply out of curiosity. While cats may not be interested in sugary smells, they tend to self-medicate when they don’t feel well by trying out random plants in the garden. 

On the other hand, the sweet smell of peonies is particularly attractive to canines because of ancestral influences of eating fruits in the wild. During spring and summer flower season, dogs will be even more interested in chewing on the plants because of their strong sense of smell.

Depending on their sensitivity and other underlying conditions, even humans may suffer similar symptoms from ingesting peony flowers. As such, peonies can also be dangerous if you have curious, young children at home who tend to put things into their mouths.

The Shade Cast by the House May Stunt the Growth of Peonies

Peonies prefer a sunny area for optimum growth. They need at least 6 hours of morning sun or a full day of gentle sunlight.

Although they can benefit from temporary relief from the scorching afternoon sun, too much shade cast by the house wall may stunt their growth and prevent them from producing plentiful blooms.

Depending on your zone and the direction of your garden, your peonies may not receive enough sunlight. That is why it is best not to grow them too close to your house, especially if you have high walls.

How to Make It Safe to Grow Peonies Close to Your House

Although there are many downsides to growing peonies close to your house, many home gardeners are still willing to take the risk. Also, some gardeners may not have pets to worry about or do not mind a few ants here and there.

Peonies are, after all, beautiful all year round, even outside the flower season. The shrubs’ rich green foliage adds life to the otherwise bare walls of most houses. And when in bloom, they give color and positive energy to any home.

However, if you are a pet owner or feel bothered about the idea of having pesky ants in and around your home, it can indeed be more troublesome than exciting to have peonies nearby. Fortunately, you can select from a number of ways to make growing peonies closer to your house safe and worthwhile.

Let’s check them out below:

Place Ant Repellent Formula Along Your Walls

If you are keen on growing peonies near your home, you can place ant repellent formula along your walls. However, many ant repellent products can be highly toxic to plants, so you must avoid applying them on your peonies’ leaves.

Some products can also be harmful to pets and other animals. Be sure to select one that is safe for humans and pets. Regardless of the brand, you should always follow the instructions on the product label, such as dosage and frequency.

Since ants are attracted to the flowers during flower season, you can start spraying ant repellent on your walls in the middle of spring. You may then reapply the product once a week until the late summer or early fall after you prune the spent flowers.

However, it is crucial to consider that ants help prevent harmful insects from feasting on your peonies. So killing them off may sometimes be bad for your plants.

Place a Physical Barrier Around Your Peonies

In addition to citrus-scented ant repellents that can double as cat repellents, you can also install a physical barrier around your peonies. Doing so will help prevent dogs or cats from moving too close and nibbling on the plants.

While a fence is effective, it can ruin the overall aesthetic of your garden, as it blocks your peonies. It will also limit your ability to perform necessary gardening rituals when necessary.

You can place small pots of shorter plants in front or around the peonies to deter your pets from passing through. You can choose pet-safe plants that make excellent companions to peonies, such as columbines.

Columbines are generally non-toxic to cats or dogs and have dwarf varieties significantly shorter than peonies, preventing the blockage of sunlight on either plant. Their vivid colors can also add to your garden’s aesthetic as they bloom in the same seasons as peonies.

Moreover, columbines grow well in pots, creating a sturdy barrier around our peonies. Growing them in pots can also protect your peonies from competing with companion plants for water and soil nutrients.

Grow Your Peonies Against an East or South-Facing Wall

Peonies thrive best with sufficient morning sun. An east-facing wall is the best place to grow your peonies if you want them close to your house. 

A south-facing wall will also be good for your peonies as it allows the plants to receive sunlight all day. However, peonies may need partial shade from the burning afternoon sun. A west-facing wall can help but is not ideal as the intense heat of the afternoon sun may be too much for your peonies.

In addition, growing your peonies against the wall can also help shield them from strong winds. Their flowers can be weighty when in full bloom, putting the plants at risk of drooping or leaning over. Sometimes, you may even need to stake the plants during flower season if the wall is not enough to protect them.

Final Thoughts

Although aesthetically pleasing, it is best not to grow peonies too close to your house to prevent ants from infesting your home or your pets and kids from being poisoned from ingesting the plant.

However, if you don’t have pets or kids to worry about or don’t mind having a few ants at home, you can grow peonies wherever you like. You can refer to the safety tips discussed in the article for an added layer of safety while enjoying the beautiful peony blooms.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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