Any Southern Peony Growers Out There?

Midland City, AL

I don't know a thing about peonies other than they are drop-dead gorgeous. I swoon over pictures of them in plant catalogues. I have bought some bare-root ones at our big-box store here and am going to try to grow my own. I am told that they won't make it here in zone 8, and that makes me all the more determined to try. Anybody have some hints or tips for me on growing peonies in the Southland?

Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

I got a peony from a generous northern DGer. I planted it in Nov. and covered it with oak leaves as mulch for the winter. It has broken through the ground and has pinkish leaves. I love them too and have never grown them before. There is a DGer who lives in Ft Worth who has quite a few and they do good for him.

I read they need MANY hours of cold temps, like 40 and below. We have had plenty of that this winter. I don't know if it will bloom this year but at least it is thriving.

I hope I have encouraged you.

Jeanne in zone 8b

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

HI Lalasland, Hi Jeanne,

You can be successful with peonies in the south as long as your winters are not TOO mild and you observe some planting guidelines. I am certainly no expert but do seem to have success with the things I've tried after a lot of reading. I am from Illinois originally and love peonies also - we took them for granted up there but I was determined to have some down here in Texas. Fortunately here in N. Texas our winters are reasonably cold with nights at least usually in 30's or lower.

The farther north in your state, the better. I just checked the map and it looks like you're near Dothan which is pretty far south. You could always experiment with a couple to see how they do - worst case is you're out $20 or $40 bucks (assuming you get good ones) and if you're willing to wait I can send you a couple freebies next fall since I always order too many. You're generally regarded to be south of the area normally suitable for peony growing but you never know, sometimes the experts are wrong - and I always like to push the envelope and often I am successful in what I turn out to be able to grow that I "shouldn't" be able to :-)

I plant mine with the eyes right at the surface. Most of the instructions you'll see in most manuals are for areas such as zones 4 and 5 where peonies are commonly grown, and requirements in the south are different. So, plant with the eyes just exposed or maybe with a light dusting of soil covering the red eyes. Plant in a well-drained area and a good loamy soil is ideal. Early blooming peonies and Singles or Japanese style peonies are better than the other varieties. Do not mulch your peonies except maybe for a very thin layer just to make the ground look nice, but don't pile it on - if I use mulch it is just for aesthetic purposes and I keep it to less than a half inch and avoid mulch altogether around the eyes. You live in an area with fairly high rainfall so water should not be a problem - and if anything I'd be more worried about too much than too little so make sure your peony is not in an area that remains boggy or where water collects.

Also, I would plant them in a semi-shady place, preferably somwhere that gets morning sun but not hot afternoon sun. The early bloomers are better choices because I find that the sun is just too hot for those that bloom after the first of May or so, and it burns the flowers. I have been braver about trying the doubles and bombs as years go by but still tend to stick to earlier blooming types. If the leaves brown or show heat stress in July or August, no biggie and just ensure the plant has gotten sufficient water, though unless you're in a drought in your area that should not be an issue. Peonies will attempt to enter dormancy sooner here than up north.

Tree peonies are said to be a better choice for warmer climates, so you can always try those if you find you're not successful with the herbaceous varieties. Also if you get a small bud first or second year and it dries up, do not worry too much as the plant just probably does not have enough energy to bloom, so see how it does the following year and you might get larger and more viable buds as time goes on.

I would buy from one of the better online sources that are actual growers as you'll get a much bigger, stronger root than you'll find at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. The North American growers (Klehm, Adelman, Hollingsworth, etc) really seem to have the best plants and it's nice knowing they're cultivated here.

Plant in October or November but remember your first-year show will probably not be spectacular and often blooms do not occur for two or three years. It is also not unusual for them to sprout really early the first year though they normally return to a normal timetable in subsequent years. This plant requires a lot of patience and is not for those who want instant gratification in flowers (not a patient person here so I had to learn that!).

They definitely will grow well in the Dallas/Ft Worth area and others in our area have done well with them - there is a lady about a block away who has some really nice ones in her yard that I noticed last spring. Some people in very mild climates do the "ice" thing where they try to keep the plant cold with ice every day but that's too much work for me, hehehe.

Good luck and let us know/keep us updates on how you do!

This message was edited Feb 11, 2009 6:30 PM

Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

Where there ya go Lala. Steve from Ft. Worth is the DGer I was talking about.

Thanks Steve for all the good info. I had read some of your old posts before I got this peony to see if I could grow them here. You encouraged me. I had another one but a mole ate it I'm guessing. Was really ticked off about that. I read that peonies need 500 to 1000 hrs of 40 and below temps to bloom, so I wasn't counting on having any blossoms for at least two years. But we have had more cold days and nights than normal, so maybe the process has sped up a little.

Anyway, just seeing it stick it's little head out made me happy. I planted it 2 in deep per instructions and it had no eyes. It gets morning sun only. So far so good. The leaves were put on top loosely never matted down. If I get any more I will plant per your instructions.

Do you have a peony tree? I've been thinking about getting one. I love the yellows and pinks.

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

HI Jeanne,

Good luck with your peony! Let me know how it does for you. You should do OK with yours. Let me know if you are interested in any more this fall. Yes I have planted treepeonies. I just planted four of them this past fall that I got from Klehm Song Sparrow....two "High Noon" (yellow) and two "Toichi Ruby" (kind of a rose pink color). I have been at my current address for two and a half years and we had only one purple T.P. that we moved from another address across town that did not flower last year (but did prior to moving here), so it's been awhile. I did have a "High Noon" at my previous address and which did flower the last two years I was there...and I agree the yellow ones are gorgeous. Hopefully I'll get a bloom or two this year. Like Herbaceous peonies, they can take a few years after planting to flower and do not like to be moved, which kind of starts the whole waiting process all over again. Tree Peonies tend to bloom earlier than the herbaceous ones so they perform better in warm climates.

Steve

This message was edited Feb 11, 2009 9:12 PM

Midland City, AL

Thanks, guys! I will take your good advice. I didn't know it took them that long to bloom, so this will be an exercise in patience for me. Yes, I am basically in Dothan, and this winter has been wierd. We've had record highs and record lows (down to 18 degrees one night, a real surprise for Dixieland) and everything in between, so I doubt they will have had enough cold to make them happy, but we'll see. I did plant them very shallow, so I was on the right track there. I learned that with tulip bulbs;if we planted tulips as deep as is recommended they would rot here. The variety I got was Dr. Alexander Fleming, one of the big fluffy ones. We'll see how he does here. If I can just get him to live, maybe I can coax him into bloom. Do I need to worry about fertilizing, or do I let him get a toehold first?

Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

Steve, I will for sure let you know if I want any more this fall. My two peonies were NOID's, one pink and one white. The white one got eaten. We have lived at our current addy for 3 1/2 yrs. Moved from southwest coast of Florida. It'a a whole new growing experience. I may try a tree peony. I would want to find the right spot for it before I ordered it though. They aren't cheap and I wouldn't want to lose it to ill preparation.

Lala, I lived in Montgomery for 3 yrs. When we moved to Florida we would go through Dothan on 237. We always liked Dothan. Good luck with your peonies and let us know how they do. Our weather has been up and down too. I have a GH and I have moved plants in and out too much. Right now, some are in and some are out.

Ahh, but spring is right around the corner.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Which corner? No sign of it around any of my corners!

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Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

That Fancy is why I don't live any further north. If I lived where you did, I'd feel denied summer and spring. When does spring arrive there, July? BRRRRR

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Nah! Spring will be here sometime between March and June! And wait till you see my peonies! This is real peony country you know! Heres a sample.

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Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

I will have a peony bush like that someday fancy, you just wait :-)

In the meantime my daffodils will have to suffice (sigh)


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Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

Fancy, those are beautiful and what vibrant color. Someday ........
I'd say your in real peony country. It's certainly cold enough, long enough :)

Love the yellow daffs, Steve. Again, love the yellow.

Steve, where is a good place to by peony trees? I do a lot of shopping from catalog.

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

Hi Texasgrower,

I think Klehm has some great tree peonies. I also bought a "High Noon" from Paradise Garden once a few years back and it did really well with three flowers 2nd year, and was comparable in size/price to the offerings from Klehm. In addition Paradise Gardens is affiliated with Oakes Daylilies which is a major grower of daylilies (among the best and definitely the biggest plants I've seen on the market and I buy from them all the time). P.G. I doubt actually grows tree peonies but their sister company does grow its own plants and seems to have a solid eye for quality.

You can get Tree Peonies cheaper online at other sources, but they porbably won't be as large or healthy. Tree peonies on Klehm or P.G. or most of the other reputable sellers can be anywhere from $40-85 for an avg tree peony and even more for some special varieties. They have "Alice Harding" which looks to be a really deep yellow, though the only yellow i have experience with is high noon and it is a medium yellow and very pretty. I would avoid places like Van Bourgondien as their plants are small and will take forever to flower.

Most of the major herbaceous peony growers also sell tree peonies. Good luck and let us know which one you choose!

Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks Steve. I will check them out.

Jeanne

Midland City, AL

Texasgrower, I am originally from the the area I'm living now, but I, too, lived in Montgomery, for 10 years, but I missed home. Who knows, maybe we crossed paths while there. Small world (and getting smaller all the time, it seems!)

Fancy, when I saw that snowy photo, my heart went out to you. But when I saw your peonies, I took it back! How absolutely beautimus! We here in my my area are so blessed to be able to grow so many things, but my human nature being what it is, I want the one thing I can't have! I guess I shouldn't be greedy, but I'm sure gonna give peonies a try.

Steve, I would be thrilled to accept your most generous offer of your freebie peonies next fall! Thanks!!

Midland City, AL

Oh, Steve, one more thing. You mentioned "the ice thing". I'd read that term somewhere before, but it was not explained. What is that exactly?

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Lalasland - I live in zone 9a and I have grown herbaceous and tree peonies successfully. I am not sure what zone you are in, but by all means, give it a go. As mentioned in some earlier posts, the tree peonies reliably bloom really well every year (March/april). I have about 6 of those. The herbaceous ones may vary some from year to year, but I always have some blooms on the 6-7 plants that I have. Most of my tree peonies are no-name ones - just white, pink, etc., but they do quite well. A few were from Pay Less (now known as rite-aid). The ice thing - some people put ice on top of the plants to simulate the cold, but I agree with Steve, too much work, and waste of energy.

Good luck.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Lalasland - I posted a thread last year that showed the sequence of blooms of my tree peonies - the link is below if you are interested.
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/843875/

I just noticed that you mentioned that you are in zone 8, so if they will grown in my zone 9, you should have no problems. You may not be able to get some of the named varieties to grow since they may be more finicky - I am not picky about my peonies, so I just get a variety of colors, and enjoy them. I am basically cheap and I don't invest in expensive plants. The most I have spent on my peonies was $15.

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

Those are just beautiful, soilsandup!! Not sure how I missed that thread last year. The pink ones you have are especially gorgeous to me.

Palestine, TX(Zone 8b)

Soilsandup, thanks for the pics. I noticed that you had tree peonies in shade, part shade. That is what I needed to see. I live on an acre in East Texas Piney Woods. We have 32 different types of trees in our front yard. Mostly oaks and Ash. My sunny spots are getting filled up. I am so glad to see I can put a tree in a part shade spot, or filtered throughout the day. Thanks.

Lala I lived in Montgomery between 71-74. A long time ago. Went to AUM to major in Police Science. Got married and moved to Florida in 74. Montgomery was a small city back then. Now it's quite large.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Lala it is the same all over - you can grow lots of things I cannot and I can probably grow lots of things you cant - for instance I noticed on a thread here last year I think a huge difference in what would be considered invasives in southern areas and they are just fine up here!

I bought my first tree peony last year so dont know what is going to happen -there are some people who grow them here but not real reliable so one lady who does advised to buy a cheap one at Canadian Tire or other type box store such as WalMart and if it didnt survive not much money lost. I got this one last year for $15 ( end of season sale) so we will see what happens.

Crestview, FL

I was glancing through some catalogues, I'm a new gardener and was looking at flowers, I have planed canna lilies and daffodils; but not much else other than those that come up from seed. When I saw what a peony looked like and started to read up on it, I thought they were prettier than any rose for sure. Only problem is, I am a beginner gardener and live in zone 8 B; but live about 65 miles from Pensacola Florida in the state of Florida, so I guess it's a no-no for me to grow them?

I chose some Begonias and Rananculus to plant this Spring instead.
joy

Midland City, AL

Soilsandup, your peonies are gorgeous--I'm swooning again! You have been very encouraging to me. I don't know that I have ever seen tree peonies for sale here, but then again I've never really looked for one. I'll keep my eyes peeled. I'm with you on the cheap plants philosophy. A nurses salary only goes so far! I'm all about WalMart and Sams Club, especially when I'm experimenting. The peony roots that I have now I got for 13 bucks. There were supposed to be four of them in the box but there were six of them! Maybe if I can make these live I'll get the high dollar ones.

Texasgrower, I was about 10 years old when you were in Montgomery, so I doubt we crossed paths! I was there from 87 to early 98. And yes, it's a big sprawling place now, which is part of the reason I left. I'm a hopeless country bumpkin!

Hang in there, Fancy. That snow's gotta melt sooner or later. I don't envy you your winters but I'll bet your summers are wonderful. Ours are absolutely brutal. At the moment we're in the middle of a frog-strangling downpour, which is typical of winter here.

Midland City, AL

Hi Joy in Crestview! You and I were typing at the same time! I was like you about the peonies. I think they are just spectacular. They may not grow for us but we can give it a try. Soilsandup lives in zone 9 and grows them, so maybe we can too. Are you treading water down there, too?

Crestview, FL

Lalasland: Yes, I believe we are neighbors. And yes we are getting flooded out with rain too. I should have checked the weather report and saved myself the trouble with watering all my flower beds today right? LOL By the way Breck's has a 50% off sale on their Peony trees. I have bought flowers from them before and never been disappointed and when they have a sale it is usually a bargain. I think the trees are $39.99 for three of them I believe.
joy

Crestview, FL

I was right it is three for $39.99 and they have one in there you really need to check out, it is simply gorgeous, it's called Sorbet Peony, it's double blossomed and has pink and white petals. I bought some Spring Cheer Daffodils from them and they wound up looking just like the picture in the catalogue, so that makes me wonder if I should try the Sorbet or not?
joy

Midland City, AL

Joy, I have seen that Sorbet variety and it looks good enough to eat. I'll check out Brecks. 39.99 is just about my speed! Why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Keep your head above water! I guess we shouldn't complain about the rain, as dry as we've been the last few years.

Crestview, FL

Lalasland: Oh, I don't like to complain about the rain, keeps me from having to water when I know ahead of time it's coming.LOL I think I'm going to try the Begonias this summer and see how they do before strutting out there to get the peonies but I hope and will wait and see what happens let me know if yours does ok and if they do I might try then. I heard you have to stake up the double bloomed ones, and the sorbet is a double bloomed one, but you are right looks good enough to eat.
joy

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Sorbet is lovely!
Pic from The Peony Garden.

A funny plan is picking away in my brain. What if you took a peony root, potted it up in early fall - lots of dirt - and kept it out until late fall early winter so the roots had a chance to form and put the whole thing in a freezer or maybe even a fridge kept as cold as possible for the winter to give it the requisite cold period? Take it out in the spring and let it do its thing.
Thank it would work?

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Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

I thought about that too fancy - assuming you got a large enough pot to hold a full-sized plant whihch would be a formidable task. I would keep it in a cold refrigerator and not a freezer. Are you saying just leave it in the pot full time? A die-hard like me might try something like that, LOL. I'd be worried here though about the heat affecting the plant's roots during the growing season. I had one potted once and it didn't survive here through the summer. If you could bury the pot in the ground would be even better!

Joy, Lalas, I don't want to rain on your parade but really be careful about the "bargains" from places like Breck's. I bought several peonies from John Scheepers two falls ago and they arrived very small and dried up, which was really disappointing to me as that place has GREAT spring bulbs. Most of those places (Breck's, Van Bourgondien, Dutch Gardens, John Scheepers, etc) are just brokers who get their peonies from Europe and they've spent gosh knows how long on containers, in storage, etc. I ordered six tree peonies that were "bargains" several years back from Van Bourgondien and after four years one plant flowered twice and nothing from the others. They were all only about 8 inches tall upon arrival. The American or Canadian growers are more expensive but you really do get what you pay for. In addition to Klehm, Hollingsworth, and A&D, I think White Flower Farm offers US-grown plants (their ratings aren't great but the peonies I got from them were huge and some flowered first year), as well as Adelman which has top-notch plants and I ordered from them for the first time this fall and their roots were enormous and fresh. Just something to think about.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Yes Steve I was thinking leave it in the pot full time but as you say it would have to be a pretty big pot and thus a generous fridge - or just a fridge with the shelves removed and nothing else in it. Weight would be a problem. I guess it would be more a logistical problem than anything. You could not be taking it out of the pot and planting, then potting up again in fall. Even planting the pot would be quite a deal!

Just a thought!

Since it will be a while before most of us see any blooms I thought I would post another - this is Candy Stripe, planted in 2006 and blooming for the first time in 2008. I love this one!

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Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

Those are very beautiful, fancyvan :-) Nice shot!

Crestview, FL

Yes, those are very gorgeous; but, all I can do is look and them and admire them, as I live in zone 8B but, its still Florida. (sniffles).

Steve: I've been buying bulbs from Breck's for years and have never been disappointed with anything they have sent me yet. I had 80 daffodils on the deck, bought some from them, and some from Easy to Grow, all came up beautifully, as a matter of fact I ordered more of the Spring Cheer Daffodils as they looked exactly like the picture in the catalogue, both are my favorite places to shop when ordering bulbs. Can't testify to any trees or plants as of yet though. I know I ordered the Prima Donna Begonia deal with 8 Begonias (2 of each kind) and the two hanging Sensation Begonias and am anxious to plant them when they come. I'm putting them into self watering containers too.
joy

Midland City, AL

Fancy, I love that Candy Stripe! Looks like an impressionist painting. If I could paint I'd take that picture and copy it. And I had to laugh when I read your pot-in-'fridge idea, because I'd been thinking the same thing! I think I may try it next fall. I've got a spare 'fridge that I may devote to plants that need chilling. A lot of folks in this area (maybe other places,too, I don't know) chill bulbs before planting them. It's worth a try. But, like you say, the logistics could be an issue. Maybe use small pots...

Crestview, FL

Lulasland: I wonder if you could do the same thing with them that you do to daffodil bulbs, they need a good freeze to bloom too. People just put them in a brown paper bag with dirt and put them in the fridge (the bulbs), and that usually works. Of course, I planted all my bulbs in November.
joy

Midland City, AL

That would solve the logistics problem, wouldn't it. Peony Experts, what do you think?

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

joy and lalas,

Peonies are a totally different matter. Bulbs are self-enclosed units that will perform just as well first year as 10 years later, as long as they're blooming size, and can be pulled and replanted every year if desired. Most daffodils really don't have stringent cooling requirements (though it does vary by variety) - though bulbs like standard tulips (not species) seem to need the most cold. Peonies are somewhere in the middle. Peonies from a cultivation standpoint are not at all like bulbs. Peonies are much more finicky and really have to develop some size/maturity to flower decently. They also develop an extensive root system which can go into the ground a foot or two. Peonies don't like being moved and moving results in suppressed flowering so they're not really "portable" the way a bulb is unless you can plant in a really large pot where they remain undisturbed. Most of the online bulb brokers sell decent daffodils and other spring bulbs that will flower reliably, but a peony in my opinion should be viewed more like a perennial that you have to plant and nurture over time as it grows and develops, though especially in northern zones where they naturally grow well they're quite a low-maintenance plant. They don't really need a "freeze" but need about 500 hrs + of conditions sub-40 or 45 degrees F. The smaller peonies available at Home Depot or Wal-Mart, or Brecks, John Scheepers, etc will likely do OK over time if the climactic conditions are suitable, but I really encourage you to get the best you can afford for the best performance. Of course, if you're in a marginal planting zone it may make more sense to get a less expensive variety and I know everyone has a different budget - but the smaller ones will take much longer to get established and thus longer to get the desired flowering.

This message was edited Feb 14, 2009 3:10 PM

This message was edited Feb 14, 2009 3:10 PM

Western, WI(Zone 4a)

this is my favorite of my tree peonies. Name is under 8" of snow right now.

Maxine

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Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

Howdy Maxine - long time no see! Beautiful flower you've posted.

Western, WI(Zone 4a)

Another one for you, Steve as you like the pink db. ones. Me I like any and all.

Maxine

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