Peonies in containers

julinncMarch 31, 2006

I live in coastal NC. I would like to grown either Rasberry Sunday or Sarah Bernhardt peonies in a container. I'm not sure how big they get or how big of a container to use. Also, what kind of soil would be best? I heard Miracle Grow potting mix would not be good.

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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

I'm growing Sarah Bernhardt in a 16" container. It is going into its 3rd year. Peonies can become rather huge over time and would need to be divided after awhile, particularly if containered. But it can be done.

Regarding soils - people tend to have their own preferences and mix recommendations based on their own experiences and experimentation. I think that looking for a bagged mix or creating a mix from components should emphasize good drainage as you want to avoid a wet, soggy environment that may promote rhizome rot and other diseases. There are now a variety of Miracle Gro soils out on the market that are supposedly targeted for different types of planting. The one thing that links them is that they already contain fertilizer of various types depending on the soil version being sold, so that may need to factor in on whether you want to use it or not. Ie., many people have reported that fertilizing (particularly continuous fertilizing) may tend to promote more foliage growth and less flowering depending on the fertilizer ratio. In a container, some type of fertilizing should happen as the nutrients have a better chance of washing out over time without a good source of replenishment other than adding home-made composted materials and/or some sort of fertilizer. In any case, the fertilizer in MG soils is claimed to last for 3 months, so for long term growing, the soil mix may work just fine, and a number of people have reported success with it for container plants. You may also want to weigh cost vs amount you get for that cost as well.

I used straight Promix soil (compressed bale) for my peonies and give them a little bone meal or super phosphate in spring. My Sarah Bernhardt looked like this last year (the original plant in 2003 was a 1 gallon with 1 flowering stem):

Tried a taller peony hoop last year and as you can see, they still flopped. LOL I may end up keeping the ring and adding a stake for tying the highest stems loosely in an upright position.

I also have a containered baby tree peony that will probably have a while to go before it blooms.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 12:15PM
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Very nice plants. I can see from the picture you are really high up. I am just being curious. How much space do you use for your plants and what protection do you use during the winter?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 8:37PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

I'm up on the 18th floor. My plants stretch the entire 40ft length of my balcony and consist mostly of USDA Zone 2 - 5 shrubs & perennials. I only protect Zone 6/7 marginals (eg., profusion beautyberry, rainbow leucothe) by pulling them back against the balcony wall. Anything that could rot in cold wet soil or are in small containers like my prickly pear cactus, agastache, sedum "Autumn Joy", etc., I also pull back. I bring my Victor crape myrtle inside my cool bedroom, although I probably could keep that out. The leucothe also gets a screen of burlap in winter to reduce wind burn.

Here's my little Seidei tree peony this morning:

I kept it on a table outside against my balcony wall all winter but piled some pine needles on it to keep the woody stems from dessicating. I added some soil at the bottom of it yesterday and sortof sat the rootball back in crooked but I'll straighten it out. LOL

    Bookmark   April 2, 2006 at 1:28PM
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bekados(z9a--NW FL)

I have a question that I think fits in here. I am in Pensacola, Fl and traded for peony roots last autumn. I planted them in containers with lots of vermiculite (I don't know why, just did). Well, all the roots are starting to bloom. Problem: we are having 80 degree days already. They are in the shade--does anyone have any advice for me keeping my peonies healthy in this warm weather? Anything special? I know nothing about peonies except I adore them.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 3:31PM
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westhighlandblue(z6 PA)

I kept Peonies in containers in Dallas, Texas. I found that they needed very rich soil. They bloomed much earlier than you might expect. I kept them in a semi-shaded location while blooming (4 hours of sun, max) a day and then moved them to the shade during the hot months. Their foilage was not much to look at once it got hot. But I had 30-40 large pots on my patio, so my Peonies they were easily overlooked by one's eye when they were not in bloom.

I am interested to see if your plants bloom year after year. I think they may be doomed in zone 9. Peonies are fairly unusual for zone 7 and higher. The ones that I had were actually eyes from some plants found naturalized near an abandoned house in Texas. Usually, Peonies don't do well without a good winter chill.

By the way, I took my Peonies with me when I loved to Philadelphia. They bloomed last Spring, in their containers. They are in the ground, this Spring. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 5:02PM
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jenny_in_se_pa(USDA7 Sunset 32)

What I did was to plant the herbaceous so that the rhizome was right at the soil level and since then after a couple years of watering, the soil has gradually washed away and the rhizome is somewhat exposed. I don't mulch or protect it in any way. Since I bought it, the lowest temps that I've had out on the balcony were a couple single digit days in 2004 & 2005 (none this past winter) and nothing colder. The last time the city went below 0° F was 1994. I noticed my tree peony didn't like the extended heatwaves that we had last summer (and neither did my lilacs) and the leaves fried. We'll see how it goes this year.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 10:19AM
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Never tried this method by myself (as I don't need it), but heard talk between two elderly ladies from down South (I guess from Alabama, judging by the accents) about peonies and one of the ladies said that she religiously emptying her icemaker once a week during the winter and put that ice over her peony(ies?). She was very proud about her invention since she is only one in her neigborhood who is able to keep peonies going for years.
Somewhat makes sense to me.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2006 at 12:37AM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

Julinnc, I've read that peonies don't like to be disturbed so when I planted my Sarah Bernhardts a few years ago (gosh, I think it's been 3 years) I went ahead and planted them in maybe 20" pots. This weekend I noticed that they are reaching the size that they need a larger container.

As for soil, I think I used bagged professional potting soil and I haven't freshened it up any (replaced it). They are fed superphosphate in the spring, that's it.

I love them! The blooms just keep getting better and larger each year.

An elderly neighbor of mine has a white peony (looks to be Maxima) that is just as big and fluffy as you could hope for. Every year I look forward to seeing its blooms. He's in his late 80s and hasn't gardened in years so I need to catch him outside one of these days, ask him how long he's been growing the peony.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 4:57PM
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alex_z7(7 AL)

Oops, just realized that I said my elderly neighbor's peony looks to be a Maxima; meant to say "Madame de Verneville."

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 12:03PM
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bonbons(TX z9)

I've never seen live peonies but I love them. I live near
Houston, TX. Could I grow some peonies in a container in my house? What would be the pros and cons. Any advice would be welcome.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 2:01PM
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bonbons(TX z9)

I've never seen live peonies but I love them. I live near
Houston, TX. Could I grow some peonies in a container in my house? What would be the pros and cons. Any advice would be welcome.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 2:06PM
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I originally grew up in Pennsylvania and my mother had some lovely peonies. I have always loved them and have always wanted some for my garden. My soil in my yard is very poor (new construction with that awful red fill dirt used in the south) and of course, the winters are not hard freezes like up north, but I see that some people have had success with growing them in containers. Can someone tell me what varieties would be better for this area and containers or would any work?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:44AM
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I grew up in Omaha and always admired my Mother's Peonies. I live in Los Angeles now (zones 9 to 10B) and wanted to take my chances at growing Sarah Bernhardt Peonies. I know Los Angeles is not this plants zone but I'd like to take my chances by applying some special care techniques. I recently mail ordered three bare root Sarah Bernhardt Peonies. They arrived and look extremely healthy based on the shoots. I immediately planted them in the ground in a special bed in my front yard I am dedicating to these Peonies and have been watching the shoots get larger each day. The specific bed location faces east and receives direct unobstructed sunlight from about 7am through about 1-2pm as the sun moves around the house from east to south. I am wondering if it would not have been better for me to have planted my bare roots into individual containers rather than directly in the ground so that I could move them about as needed as the late Spring and Summer heat gets started. I really want to succeed at growing this beatiful flower. I was thinking in containers I could still keep them in the dedicated bed but have the ability to move them around as needed. Right now Los Angeles temperatures are in the 60's to mid 70's with lows in the upper 40's to 50's but that will be changing to upper 70's to 80's by May and June and then by August 80's to 90's and in September we hit some 100's degree days. If your recommendation is to plant in containers now, how large a container for each should I select. I read that they do not like to be disturbed once established and this particular Peonie reaches a size of about 36 inches wide and 36 inches tall. I am guesstimating that each container should be about 30" to 36". What I am planning on doing during the winter months is to apply ice all around the top to help with the cold this plant needs. During the winter months Los Angeles gets consistent lows for about 5 months of the year of 30's and 40's which probably isn't good enough, hence the reasoning for the ice. Is there any advice someone can give me for succeeding at growing my Mother's favorite flower? Its such a beautiful flower and it would be very special for me to enjoy something that brought my Mother such happiness.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 12:32PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Stevan57 call your local county extension service and ask the average chilling hours where you live. If more than 400 you should be able to bloom peonies. In the ground is much better for growing peonies which need room for massive root structures. Most available potting mixes are only intended for one season and say so on the bag. Peonies need to be left in the soil for at least several years. For your temperatures you should plant so high that the buds for next year are visible through the winter, you will need all the chilling you can get. Al

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:28AM
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here's my peony in container. it's a sarah,

i'm in toronto, not sure about the zone cause u.s. is different.

east facing.

it lives just fine.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 12:27PM
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