Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 Questions - Peonies for Hot Coastal Climates

I received this question from Charles in Zone 8b/9a:
"Your name was given me as a reliable source for peonies in the very deep South. My wife and I have always wanted to grow peonies but mistakenly thought that where we live in the sea islands of South Carolina would have too warm a winter to be successful. Recently, I have learned that there is at least one variety of double peony dark pink may do well here. That color, however, is not one that we particularly like.

We live on one of the sea islands of South Carolina, the island just above Hilton Head. Most gardening sites place us in zone 8b but the more reliable and studied research show our area of southeastern South Carolina, together with the area around Charleston to be in zone 9a. I guess the reason for this is that we are surrounded by water and receive the benefits of the Gulf Stream. Our summers can be hellish with high temperatures and high humidity. There's a section of our yard that receives full sun from dawn to about 1:00 where we would like to plant them.

I am hoping that you can suggest a couple of "never fail" double peonies in light pink, yellow, white or lavender that should do well for us. I also would like to be advised as to what sites on the web are good for beginners learning to plant peonies. Our soil here is sandy and perfectly neutral so I expect to have to amend the soil to make it possible to grow the plants we want. If you could be so good as to suggest a couple as well as a good source for purchasing them, we'd be grateful. Thank you."

Peonies for Hot Coastal Climates

Just because you have palm trees doesn't mean you can't grow peonies! (Actually a few select few palm trees will grow here in our zone 7b growing zone.) However not all peonies may grow successfully if you have palm trees. For your type of growing environment, I would recommend Intersectional Peonies. These peonies are a cross between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. So you get some of the best attributes from both of them. You will get the tenacity, heat tolerance, and color range of a tree peony, and you will get a good mix of the foliage and flower habits from an herbaceous peony. All of this plus a plant that becomes well established more quickly than either a tree peony or herbaceous peony (which can take several years here).

Southern Peony Best Performers

As for how to grow peonies where you live, I would check out this article about 2016 Questions - Growing Peonies in South Carolina. Also you can find some good information about peonies that do well in the South on my Southern Peony Best Performers page. There are already several Intersectional (Itoh) peony selections on this page, including Peony 'Bartzella' (a yellow), Peony 'Keiko' (a pink), Peony 'Morning Lilac' (a fuschia pink/purple), Peony 'Sonoma Amethyst' (a lavender), and Peony 'Takara' (a pink with red center). The best white Intersectional Peony I would recommend would be Peony 'Cora Louise', a huge white flower with a dark purple center.

Southern Peony's 2017 Intersectional Peony
Catalog Price Comparison List

As for where to buy these intersectional peonies, a good place to start would be my 2017 Intersectional Peony Catalog Price Comparison List. This is a price comparison list for all of the peony growers who belong to the American Peony Society. While I cannot guarantee their plants, I have ordered from most of these growers, and have been happy with what they've sent me. Another source for Peony 'Bartzella' is Plant Delights Nursery, a local nursery here in NC. I know the Bartzella plants they sell are huge potted peony plants. This would give you a head start in getting your peony established vs. buying a root which is what most growers sell and ship in the fall. Buying a peony from a source that is closer to your own growing zone will also help your peony get established more quickly. Another grower that sells all of their Intersectional Peonies as potted plants is Klehm's Song Sparrow. Since these intersectional peony plants are potted, these vendors can ship them year round, which means you could get your plants in the ground now! Good luck!

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