Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 Carolina Gardening Peony Tip of the Month

I noticed a peony tip in my Carolina Country magazine this month. This is a free magazine sent out by my electric cooperative. It covers a Southern region and usually has gardening tips or a gardening section in it each month. This month the peony tip caught my eye, and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Carolina Country Tip of the Month

"Late summer is prime peony planting time. Since peonies need a proper duration of chilly weather to bloom satisfactorily in the spring, look for older varieties such as 'Teresa', 'Sarah Bernhardt', 'Felix Crousse', or 'Festiva Maxima' that require less cold for bud set, or ask your local nursery for newer peony selections specifically bred for mild Southern winters. In addition, bury the crowns only about 1½ inches below ground so they will be less insulated from the cold weather. Finally, for stronger, sooner flowering peonies buy divisions that have at least three to four "eyes"."

I've never heard of the peony variety 'Teresa', and actually there is not one registered under this name. However I do grow all the rest of the varieties - 'Felix Crousse', 'Festiva Maxima' and 'Sarah Bernhardt', and they do grow and bloom well here in the South. There is one part of the tip I do disagree with however, and that is the planting depth. The author of this peony tip suggests planting your peony "eyes" 1½ inches below ground. However I would not plant them that deep. I usually plant my peonies even with the ground and put a tiny bit of mulch on top (½ inch or less). Even ½ inch would probably be okay, but 1½ inches would be too deep especially if you live even farther South than I do (zone 7). The depth of the peony directly affect how many chilling hours it receives, and as the author notes the more shallow they are planted the "less insulated" they are from the cold weather. Peonies need this cold weather to bloom and grow properly. It is definitely possible to plant your peony to deep and prevent it from blooming. So if you have your peony planted too deep or buried under too much mulch, dig it up and plant it much shallower or remove most of your mulch. This is a common problem in the South, and one I made myself (planted too deep) as a little girl growing my first peonies. I also visited my neighbors peony at their request this year to determine why it was not blooming. They had it buried under 4 inches of pine straw. The leaves still grew beautifully, but there were no blooms. I suggested they remove most or all of the pine straw so that it would get enough chilling hours this winter to hopefully bloom next spring!

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