Need to know everything about peonies

imraineyMay 3, 2008

I don't know a thing about peonies except that I really want them even though this is not a region they grow very well in.

I planted a couple herbaceous peony roots 6 or 8 years ago. I get foliage every year but last year is the first time I got some buds on one of them. I got 2 buds but only one went on to develop. This year I have 4 swollen buds on that plant. If I pick them early, will other branches develop buds?

Each year the plants come in larger but they still die before the summer heats up. Anything I can do to prolong their growing season?

Please tell me anything you know about peonies. Especially for growing them in a hot, dry climate. Thanks in advance.

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If you cut & paste this link, they offer tips for zone 9 peony growing -

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 8:28PM
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Thanks. But I'm growing -- or attempting to -- herbaceous peonies.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 9:12PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Alas, I don't think you can grow herbaceous peonies in Zone 9. I believe they're very hard to grow even in Zone 8. They need to go dormant for a while in order to flower. But think of all the lovely things you can grow that we in the colder areas can't!

And, if tree peonies will work for you, they are beautiful, and very similar flower-wise to herbaceous.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 9:39PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Perhaps I spoke too hastily... it seems that some gardeners in your zone do grow certain cultivars. Maybe you should ask on your local board if anyone there has successfully grown them, and see what they do, and what cultivars they grow. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 9:47PM
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Yeah. One is blooming at last. They just have a very short season before they completely disappear -- I mean one day they're there and the next they are shards of crispy leaves. And neither of them resembles the lush shrubs with copious bloom I remember growing up in NYS.

I'll check with a regional group but so few people even attempt to grow them here that I've never found anyone who's knowledgeable about them.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 10:46PM
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jayco(5b NY)

Maybe you should make another post here and title it so as specifically to attract growers from warmer zones... Something like "Anyone here growing peonies in Zone 9?"

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 9:36AM
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Good advice to check with your local board or extension office. Peonies need a certain amount of dormancy and cold. Mine stay covered by snow from December to March. They like that. I wish you luck. Let us know how you fare.

Sue, thanks for that link. I bought two tree peonies online this year and expect delivery when it's time to plant them. I have only herbaceous right now so this will be a new experience for me. I understand the flowers are much larger. Then yesterday, a lady at our local Farmer's Market was selling well-rooted gallon containers of Sarah Bernhardt (pink double)for $8 and I bought two. I couldn't believe the price since the nursery wants over $20.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 9:56AM
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I searched GW and gleaned some more info.
1. Ask your county extension agent how many "chilling hours" there are in your location.
2. Select herbaceous peonies that require the fewest "chilling hours".
3. Plant the peonies with the top of the root showing. The air temps. in winter will be colder than the ground temps. & give more chilling.
4. Select the earliest-blooming varieties so they can bloom before the high heat season comes. (maybe this helps tree peonies in hot zones because they bloom before herbaceous?)
5. Give plant some afternoon shade to prevent sunburn & crispy leaves.
6. Water plant sufficiently in very hot weather.
Good Luck! There is a guy called Al (Calistoga is his garden web name)that grows peonies in zone 9 in California, but I understand there are many types of zone 9's in CA. He may have colder winters than you. Sue

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 10:40AM
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Thank you, Sue. Great tips!

Fortunately, I am in an area that has the coldest winters in the Los Angeles area. Of course, we also have the hottest summers... ...which more or less proves what you're saying about zone "9" in SoCal. I suppose that's why Sunset uses more than 20 zones to describe our micro-climates.

The one about early blooming varieties is spot on! My entire shrubs -- and the foliage was never the problem; I have abundant lush foliage -- shrivel up and disappear by mid-Summer.

Thanks for really digging in and finding some solutions. ;>

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 11:08AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Peonies should not "dry up" in the summer, ANYWHERE. They are not considered a drought tolerant plant and their soil must be kept reasonably moist at all times. Herbaceous peonies are thought to require a minimum of 400 hours of winter chilling to bloom. This minimum is predicated on them being planted so high that the buds for next years blooming stems are visible all winter and subject to air temperature, not soil temperature. In your zone the foliage may not die back and in November I would cut it back to about four inches leaving the stiff stems to provide physical protection to the exposed buds which may be easily damaged by cats or other animals over the winter. Peonies love rich soil and I suggest adding compost when the beds are cleaned spring and fall AROUND the plants NOT on top of them. Al

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 9:47AM
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Admittedly, I have no idea what I'm doing and I've done it all wrong, but I've got to tell you, my experience is different.

I planted 3 bare roots 6-8 years ago. Thinking the heat would be the problem, I put them in the shade and planted them deep -- possibly 4-6" deep. I got foliage every year but no blooms until last year (on just one of them). This year that one has 4 -- a 400% increase over last year so I'm optimistic that we're on track now. And I gotta tell you that my plants do, indeed, dry up and disappear completely by mid-Summer. I'm saying there's no evidence that they've even been there except for the wire cages they grow in. I promise you, there's nothing to cut back after the end of June. And, fortunately, nothing for animals to disturb.

Each year I've resolved to water more consistently. But the truth is, when it turns 100Ë+ for weeks at a time in my backyard, I don't go outside much. And the spot where they are is just past the margins of my lawn sprinklers. So they go completely brown and crispy at some point and disintegrate. But the roots carry on and they've been coming back since I put them in. ...even though on one or two occasions I had forgotten where the second one was planted and snapped off the early foliage thinking it was a weed or a water shoot of the walnut tree it's planted under.

As you can see, I'm a "gardener" in the sense that every year I spend too much money on plants I don't know how to care for but insist on having because I'm a Northeast girl. Happily, a few defy my abuse and neglect and come back and that's all I need to continue in my foolishness.

Contrary as I may be, I really appreciate all the information because, encouraged by the opulent bloom I got last year, I've put in two new 3-gallon peonies. They're in a different location and planted just to the soil level established in their containers. They may need me to be more attentive and appropriate. ;>

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 9:34AM
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jimnyo(8 (SoCal))

hey imrainey, thanks for posting--i'm close to you i think and this has been so helpful. just planted a few peonies a couple months ago and need all the help i can get--that tidbit about them drying up in the summer will keep me from freaking out. please let me know anything that has helped you get more blooms...thanks!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 3:27AM
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dublinbay z6 (KS)

I'm no expert on peonies--although I grow about a dozen, and came from a northern home where we grew lots of peonies. Anyway, I think you may have violated several rules for peony-growing--at least as far as I was taught.

1. Do not plant them in the shade. They are sun plants and won't bloom well without adequate sun. (Some late afternoon shade from hot sun might be all right if the plant receives lots of sun all the rest of the day.)

2. Planting them "deep"--as in 4-6 inches deep--is one of the worst things you can do with a peony. Guaranteed to produce no, or very few, blooms. It is an absolute requirement that the little budded "eyes" be no more than an inch (maybe at most 1.5 inches) from the surface. In other words, plant higher, not lower--especially since over time the soil sinking can pull them down a bit. As far as I know, the 1-inch rule is an absolute rule--if you want blooms.

3. I have heard that Maxima Festiva (hope I spelled that right) can take more heat than some other ones. It is a full luscious white with a few red specks in the middle. I also grow a single Japanese peony called Scarlet O'Hara--sensational red with a golden yellow center. It blooms before all the other peonies, which might be good for your area, and attracts all sorts of comments from the neighbors.

Like I said, I'm no expert, but that is how I was taught to grow--and still do grow--my peonies.

Hope that helps.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Depends on where you live as to planting in shade. Some peonies come from wooded areas. The lactiflora's are from grasslands but most of the others come from mixed area's, meaning grass and woodland.

Red colored ones will retain their bloom longer if planted in shade.

Peonies should be planted just under the surface not 4-6 inches unless you ar planting a tree peony.

After intial watering in back off and don't water allow to go dormant. If you water on a hot day 97+ you stand the chance depending on your soil conditions to damage your plant.

Hopefully you have changed your peonies growing conditions last fall.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 10:53PM
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need to know if you can put bananas or coffee grounds around the peonies or if it is just for roses???

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:49PM
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