Do others in zone 7b have luck with particular peony varieties? (Herbaceous/Japanese) I of course have Festiva Maxima and Sarah Bernhardt. For several years I had luck with a white that was either Krinkled White or Cheddar Charm - I've forgotten. I tried Lady Alexandra Duff last year and got two gorgeous blooms, don't know how it will do long term. Unfortunately, many of the catalogs don't suggest which ones do better in the south.
I have a Sarah Bernhardt here in N. GA, 7a, that is almost twenty years old. It came from Burpee. It grew bigger and bloomed better each year for several years and then just quit. I moved it to a premium spot two years ago, barely a breath of what it once was and placed it gently on compost and manure, fed it religiously and have still not been able to get it to bloom. If anyone has the secret touch I'd like to know.
I think we have the right amount of chill hours but have suspected the problem was one of soil pH. Although it says in some places that they like a neutral to slightly acid soil, I've read more frequently that they like things more alkaline. That would definitely not be my soil situation. I may have had good success because I planted the original plant in amended soil and raised the pH to the alkaline range. Probably after a number of years, layers of acid deciduous leaves and a breakdown of the original soil, the plant became unhappy. I've had the same problem with a few other plants that might do well here but don't, such as lilacs. Compost and fertilizers add to the pH problem when the soil is not proper for them to begin with. I've not put forth the energy to try to change the pH around that one individual peony, but you've reminded me that maybe I should give it a shot.
One of my garden club friends says that you need to be sure and choose only the ones that are labeled as early bloomers. And she had some beeutiful ones in the Flower show last year. I have one growing in a pot (small) that a friend gave me. Will see how it does.
Plant with the eyes very close to the soil surface. My first attempts were too deep and killed them all. The instructions were printed for northern gardens. After I read some advice for southern gardens I never had a problem (except for exuberant dogs).