Articles about Peony questions
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Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Questions - How to Grow Peonies in Zone 10A

I received this question from Roseann in zone 10A:

"Hello Adriana, I really enjoy your blog. Thank you so much for all the wonderful information. I would love to grow Herbaceous Peonies. I've tried once to grow three herbaceous ones, and none of them took. Do you have any advice for how I can grow them here in Southern California Zone 10A? Or if you even think that it's possible. I would really appreciate any advice and help you can give me."

USDA Growing Zones Map
How to Grow Peonies in Zone 10A

I have heard of people dumping ice on their peonies during winter in hotter growing zones, but I don't have a lot of specific information on how they did it (how often, how much ice, how many days/weeks/months?). Also that sounds like quite a bit of trouble to me to grow a flower. So I would probably not recommend that approach.

I would really recommend trying to grow an intersectional peony. They are a cross between an herbaceous peony and a tree peony, and they are able to grow in a bit warmer growing zones (just like their tree peony parents). Tree peonies may be another option if you are interested, but I really think intersectional peonies will be easier to grow. Intersectional peonies are grown on their own roots, while tree peonies are normally grafted and can take longer to become established (which may be hard to do in a challenging climate).

No matter which type of peony you choose (herbaceous or intersectional), I would recommend planting them very shallow. You want to cover the roots, but the pinkish "eyes" should be at ground level, and seeing them over winter is perfectly fine (even suggested in warmer growing zones). Those "eyes" need cool temperatures during the winter to set bud.

If you choose a tree peony, plant them deep. Their "eyes" or growth buds need to be buried beneath the soil. The deeper a tree peony is planted, the better. The roots of the plant should be deep in the soil, with the actual stem (woody) part of the peony planted 3-5 inches beneath the soil surface. This will (hopefully) allow the tree peony to start growing more of its own roots from the buried tree peony stem.

A great intersectional peony to try if you are interested is Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella', an American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner. It is a stellar performer for me, always loaded with buds and flowers, and the flowers are just gorgeous - bright, full double standout yellow blooms! You can get it for a decent price nowadays too (since it has been around for a while now). Check out my intersectional peony price list for places to buy it... 2019 Intersectional Peony Catalog Price Comparison List.

I hope this information helps, and I'd love to hear more about your garden in the future. Please keep me posted on how growing peonies works out for you!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

2019 Questions - Gardens with Lots of White Peonies

I received this question from Linda in Zone 7b:

"I’m a watercolor artist living in Charlotte. My absolute favorite subject is peonies, especially white ones. I’m looking for an area near me that grows a lot (LOT) of peonies that might let me come to take photos to paint. Any leads you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I’ve attached photos of two of my paintings to give you an idea of my work.

"Thank you and have a great weekend."

White Single Peonies Art by Linda Fossum

I'm not sure of a local place where they will have lots of white peonies blooming. Duke Gardens in Durham may be a good option. They do actually have quite a lot of herbaceous peonies growing there. I'm not sure how many are white vs. pink or red, though. Also I know the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh has a white garden with a very large white tree peony in it. There may be some white herbaceous peonies growing there too. The Biltmore House has lots of nice gardens, and I do remember seeing many peonies there, but I did not see them in bloom (just in bud). So I'm not sure what colors they have, and they may be a bit closer for you too. It might be a good idea to call ahead to the garden to ask about their peonies, potential bloom times, and whether artists are allowed. Now would be the time to go for tree peonies. Herbaceous peonies will be blooming in a couple weeks.

Good luck!

Double White Peony Art by Linda Fossum

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

2019 Questions - Intersectional Peonies How to Cut Back Stems with Buds

Intersectional Peonies with Above Ground Buds

I received this question from Joy in zone 8a:

"First and foremost, thank you for having a most informative website on one of my most loved flowering plants."

"I am writing to you today, as I’m just now getting out into the garden and tidying up my peonies, which I usually cut them back in the fall. I noticed that my Itoh Peony Julia Rose (I have 2 and planted them in 2012) have developed eyes on last years dead stems and as normal, eyes also stemming from the ground. I’ve never seen this before and thought perhaps that it was a result of not cutting them back in the fall. I’m not sure how to proceed with spring clean up and thought to seek your most valuable advice."

"Thank you for your time and look forward to your guidance."

Intersectional Peonies with Above Ground Buds

Actually intersectional (also called Itoh) peonies can grow and bloom from woody stems grown in previous years (especially in our warmer Southern climates). I actually did an experiment to see what would happen with those stems, 2011 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Blooms. So when you are cleaning up your intersectional peonies that have woody stems in place, be sure to keep those stems where you can visibly see a red growth bud at the top. Then just pick off any old leaves or foliage from that stem. For all of the other stems, cut them back to the first red growth bud that you see. You can make the cut a little above the growth bud, leaving an inch or a half inch or so.

I usually wait to cut back my intersectional peonies later than the rest of my peonies, usually late winter (sometimes early spring if I'm really behind). It is possible that some of those above ground stems could get killed over the winter and some may not. By waiting to cut them back later in the winter season, you'll then know which ones will grow and which ones were killed. That way you can cut back any that didn't make it. If I do happen to cut my intersectional peonies back early (in late fall), then I generally leave all stems with buds on them, cutting them back to the first pink bud. Sometimes they don't all make it through the winter, though.

I hope you enjoy your 'Julia Rose' Intersectional Peonies this spring! Take Care and Happy Growing!

Intersectional Peonies with Above Ground Buds

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018 Questions - Growing Peonies in the Deep South, Dealing with Fungus

I received this question from Ellery in zone 8a/9b:

"I was reaching out to see if there are any APS members with experience growing in the deep south. I garden in Thomasville, GA, and Tallahassee, FL (8A out in the country to maybe even a 9A microclimate in town), and have been experimenting for the past two years with peonies - P lactiflora, officinalis, cambessedessii, rockii, suffruticosa, as well as a variety of species from seed. Many of the plants are really hurting at this point. Some certainly have botrytis, others possibly phytophthora (though most are still potted, and in a very free-draining bark-based mix that I would not have thought conducive to phytophthora, but we have had rain literally almost every day this summer), but I just don't have the experience to diagnose for sure. General recommendations regarding sun exposure and other basic cultivation tips for this area would also be helpful."

Potted Peony Dealing with Fungus

I garden in the South, but I am in zone 7b. So just shy of your 8A. I'm noticing that you don't seem to have any Intersectional Hybrids. I would highly recommend trying these Itohs / Intersectional Peonies. They are a cross between a tree peony and herbaceous peonies, and they are quite vigorous and tolerate warm climates well. Peony 'Bartzella' a yellow variety is one of the best.

My web site also lists several varieties that grow well for me here under my "Best Performer" section... (intersectional, herbaceous, and tree)

No matter what peony you grow, all peonies will look ragged and worn by the now (the end of the season). Almost every peony I grow gets blight at some point in the season. It's just something I live with, since I don't like to spray chemicals. You could try experimenting with fungicides, but these are not a cure and would have to be sprayed every year on a regular basis to keep the fungal diseases at bay. That's all you are really doing is making the fungus less noticeable. It is always there in the environment. So I prefer to just live with it, try to grow cultivars that are vigorous enough to live with it, without succumbing to it / dying from it.

Some rockiis do well here and other don't. One I bought as a plant just died this winter with the bad thaw/freeze cycle we just had. However one of the plants I grew from seed was just fine and had two spectacular blooms on it this year. I don't grow too many species here, although I've tried to grow several from seed. None of them have really taken off besides p. rockii.

The easiest to grow tree peony (which has the hardiest roots as well), is Tree Peony 'White Phoenix'. It is also on my best performers page. It is a single white, but it grows larger with more blooms every year and the frosts this year did not affect it. The Chinese have grown this plant (from p. ostii) for thousands of years. They call it the Millennium Peony.

Also full sun is always best for herbaceous and intersectional peonies, while tree peonies can tolerate some shade. However for more blooms, more sun is always better. Also I would recommend trying to plant any of your potted peonies in the ground. Some of the varieties and species you are growing may not be suitable for your area. However I would definitely give some of our Southern Peony Best Performers a try, and if you need ideas on where to plant them check out our article on Top 5 Spots to Plant a Peony.

Hope that info helps!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 Questions - Yard Regrading, Moving Peonies, Planting Distance, Puppies

I received this question from Karen in zone 7a:

"Hi. I transplanted some very old peonies that belonged to my grandmother last September. I had 3 plants that ended up being divided into 6. They were pretty much just stuck in the ground in a corner of the yard that will get lots of sun. This part of the yard is boggy after recent snow. My peonies are mulched. Builders will be regrading my yard for better drainage. Do I ask them to work around my peonies or should I move them? My yard is very small and there are not many options. This is distressing. They are over 100 yrs old!"

"I live in Richmond Va. It appears that most of my peonies are beginning to put out shoots! Landscapers came and suggested they be moved to a different location. I have seven total but a tiny lot. He wants to put only three in my main border and says they will not be happy if too close together. I want more in the border. I guess he knows what he is doing 😬? Can I send a sketch of his proposed layout? What is the closest I can put them together? I also would love suggestions on keeping my pups away from them!"

Peony Landscape Plan

Thank you for sending the drawing from your landscaper. It sounds like you've already made the decision to move the peonies, which is probably a good idea if they are in a boggy area of your yard now. I can't tell what the scale is of the landscaper's drawing, but since the planting bed appears to be as longer or longer than your patio, I'm guessing it is pretty large. How far apart you plant your peonies depends on how you want your peonies to look when they grow larger in a couple years. Do you want them all to merge into a long line/shrub border of peonies? Or do you want them to stay separate and individually defined in your beds? If you want them to merge, then you can plant them 2-3 feet apart. If you want them to stay separate, then 4 feet or more apart would be suitable. Go with your gut, if you want more in that border, then just say so.

As for keeping your pups away from them, I would suggest putting some tomato cages around them. You can buy the smallest size of tomato cages, and cut them down shorter (possibly making 2 peony cages from 1 tomato cage). Alternatively you can also special order peony cages that are already the correct size, but you'll find they are much more expensive. If you are really worried about your pups getting to the peonies, you can also wrap the cages in deer netting around the outside.

Good luck with your grandmother's 100 year old peonies! I'd love to see some photos of them when they bloom. Send me a few if you get a chance!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 Questions - Where to Buy Peonies Locally in NC or SC

I received this question from Roni in Zone 8a:

"Hi. My daughter lives in Wake Forest NC and I live in McColl SC. We are wondering where to buy good sized peonies. Any thoughts?"

I'm guessing by the question, you are looking to buy peonies in pots that are growing with foliage and perhaps even blooms. If this is the type of peony you are looking to buy, the best place to find these are at your local garden shops in spring. That way you can see what each plant looks like when it is growing (instead of buying a bare root). Sometimes you can find peony plants in pots that have been grown in the pot for more than 1 year, and are mature enough to have blooms. Also some companies (like Monrovia) will sell their peonies in even larger pots that are even more mature with many more blooms on them, like 2 gallon or even 5 gallon pots. Finding peonies to purchase locally does have its advantages. When you buy peonies locally you get to pick one out that already has blooms and/or lots of nice looking foliage. You also support local garden shops and the local economy. You are also expressing local demand for peonies. The more peonies local garden shops sell, the more they will carry and buy to sell next year, increasing your chances for more and newer varieties that will be locally-available in the future.

Buying Potted Peonies in Flower

Since NC is my home stomping ground, I can definitely recommend shop local garden shops here in Raleigh, NC. My favorite shops that I've seen and purchased potted peonies from are: Atlantic Gardening Company, where I purchased my current favorite peony, 2013 Monrovia Itoh Peony 'Keiko'™ 愛幕 (Adored), Homewood Nursery, who also donated peonies for the 2013 APS Peony Donation to JC Raulston Arboretum, Logan's, who helped promote the 2017 American Peony Society Convention in Raleigh, NC, and Plant Delights who hosted the APS Conference goers for a tour last year, 2017 American Peony Society Convention Tour of Plant Delights Nursery & Juniper Level Botanic Garden and I recently bought a tree peony from, 2017 Tree Peony Paeonia ostii at Plant Delights Nursery Open House, and offers quarterly open greenhouse weekends.

You should be able to find some local garden shops in your area (maybe Florence, SC or Fayetteville, NC) that carry peonies. Timing is key, however, to finding potted peonies and finding the best selection. You'll want to check/call your local garden shops in early April. If you wait until mid-May, there won't be much (if anything) left. Peonies with lots of buds and flowers will sell out first. If you wait too long, you may only find potted peonies with foliage. These flowerless potted peonies are still good to buy, but you will have to wait to see the blooms until next year or the year after, depending on how long it takes your peony to settle in to its new home. If you don't find any in your local area in SC, you might have a good excuse to come visit your daughter for a peony shopping trip in late April or early May. Once you've purchased your new peonies, make sure you plant them with they eyes at surface level. If you'd like more in depth tips about planting your peonies in the South, check our How To Page for lots more info on growing peonies! :-)

Also some of our readers may know of other local garden shops that sell potted peonies in the spring. If you know of a great, local nursery that sells peonies in the South, please post a comment and share it here!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Questions - Peony 'Old Faithful' Slow to Increase

I received this question from Pauline in zone 5b:

"I have a quick question for you regarding Old Faithful, which you seem to grow. What is your increase of stems year over year?

"I planted Old Faithful in fall 2015, along with 14 other varieties of peonies. (Long story short: I've been apartment living in cities for many years and finally moved out to a house. I've always loved peonies and went a little crazy when I could finally grow them!) The first year Old Faithful had two stems and two flowers. This year there seems to be only three large "buds" emerging. I've looked all over and no one mentions that Old Faithful is slow to increase. It is mentioned regarding other cultivators (I.e. Henry Bockstoce). Old Faithful is in a raised bed of amended soil, spaced 3 feet from other peonies, and the other peonies have at least doubled stems year over year."

"I only ask as we are planning to move and I would like to divide and take the plants to our new home. I am hoping Old Faithful has enough eyes to divide. Thanks for your time on this!"

Peony 'Old Faithful' in 2017 with 2 Stems

I must say that I am quite disappointed with this peony plant right now, actually. The increase was great at first, but now it seems to be struggling. Also this plant is in one of my best beds in the yard. It has good access to sun, moisture, and is free from competition. I have grown this Peony 'Old Faithful' since 2008. The stem increase seemed to be good at first, 1 stem (2009), 3 stems (2010), 7 stems (2011), 9 stems (2012), and then it has been steadily declining ever since. I have tried giving it good compost and organic fertilizer since it has started declining, but it has not helped. The next year it went down to 7 stems (2013), 7 stems (2014), 5 stems (2015), and 3 stems (2016). This year it only has 2 stems (2017) on it. Sometimes it may pop up a late stem, but so far, there are only 2 stems on it this year. So I really can't say if your peony will be large enough to divide. If you want to keep it, you may need to just dig the whole thing up and take it with you. This plant has very thick, large stems and a great habit - which make it seem like it should be a great garden plant, but its recent steady decline has really disapointed me. :-(

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!

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Questions - Reliable Source for Peony Seeds

I received this question from Mubarak in zone :

"I am looking for reliable source for peony seed for my home garden. While searching on internet I found your blog Thank you so much for all the information at one place. Please let me know where I can buy seed or can you share some seed with me. I will pay for the postage. Please help me in this regard."

American Peony Society Seed Distribution Sale

I would highly recommend the American Peony Society as the best (and most reliable) place to buy peony seeds. However you do need an APS membership to buy the seeds. One year's APS Membership fee is $25, but it may be worth it if you are buying lots of seeds. Also the seed list for this year was just posted last week, and there are lots of fabulous choices on it. A very talented hybridizer that passed away recently, Bill Seidl, donated all of his seeds to the American Peony Society. So their Seed Distribution Program has lots of rare, hand pollinated, choice seeds (many are limited to 1 pack per person) to choose from.

Also there is an American Peony Society Annual Convention & Show coming up in June of this year in Raleigh, NC. The APS seeds will be at the peony show for sale to the public (no APS membership necessary) and no shipping fee! I'm not sure how far you are from Raleigh, NC, but this will be a great show to see the myriad of peony varieties available, and if you have time, you may want to join APS and attend the whole convention. 😊 Hope to see you there!

2017 American Peony Society Convention

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

2017 Questions - Buying Peonies at the APS Convention

I received this question from Eileen zone 4b:

"Hi, I too am going over my lists of must-haves as we sit amongst more than a foot of snow, wind and temps in the teens. I was wondering if any of the peony producers that attend the convention offer discounts on orders placed at the convention? I know you've attended before and would know. I remember you purchased some potted plants last year at Solaris, but didn't mention any specials at the convention per se. I might hold off on at least one order if that were the case. I'm planning an order from Adelmans, too, as they provide the largest roots of all. It must be their wonderful Oregon soil and climate! Gold City has nice roots, too, and always includes a freebie...a few years ago they gifted me Ann Berry Cousins, which has turned out to be pretty spectacular. Thanks, Eileen"

American Peony Society Exhibition and Flower Show
Potted Peonies for Sale

I've never seen growers offer discounts on peony orders placed at the convention. However some growers will bring potted peonies for sale. However the selection of these potted peonies is much more limited than what would be available in someone's catalog.

I have never seen Adelman's bring potted peonies to a convention before. Also the potted peonies I purchased at the convention last year were from Klehm's Song Sparrow, not Solaris Farms, and those peonies were purchased on the farm tour of Klehm's Song Sparrow, not at the convention itself. The potted peonies at Klehm's Song Sparrow that I purchased were on special for only $15 each! I wish I'd bought more. There was a tour of Solaris Farms as well, but they did not have anything available for sale during their farm tour or the convention.

Also don't forget about the peony auction that happens during the APS banquet. You'll definitely want to save a few dollars for that. Sometimes good deals are to be had on rare and sometimes pricier peony varieties. You may also get a second chance to purchase a peony variety that is already sold out for 2017 or perhaps not even offered in any 2017 catalogs.

There will also be plant purchasing opportunities during our tour of Plant Delights Nursery (& Juniper Level Botanic Garden) during this year's American Peony Society Convention. They do have a few select varieties of peonies to choose from. However the bulk of their offerings are varieties of a wide range of plant genera that you won't find anywhere else. Their prices aren't cheap, but you always get good sized, healthy plants. I always find something I need whenever I visit them!

I look forward to seeing you at the convention!

Potted Peonies for Sale
at the American Peony Society Convention

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2017 Questions - Dividing an Herbaceous Peony in Winter

I received this question from Gwendolyn in zone 7b:


I have an 8 year old Sarah Bernhardt peony that I would like to divide. I live in Raleigh, NC and I was wondering if it is too late to divide it? Thank you for any advice you can give me.


Herbaceous Peony Buds Still Dormant
(End of January)

Actually you are in luck. Since the ground never really experiences a hard, long freeze during the winter here in growing zone 7b, you have some extra time to divide your herbaceous peony plant (especially with the warmer temperatures we've been experiencing here recently). Ideally peonies are divided in the fall season. However, digging and dividing a peony now in our growing zone should be no problem, as long as there is no snow cover (which is rare here anyway) and the ground is not frozen at the time. I would definitely get it done now, though. January and February would probably be the limit on when to divide a peony in a Southern growing zone.

Herbaceous Peony Buds Beginning of Growth Cycle
(End of February)

By March the peony's foliage will begin to start an active growth cycle, and that foliage would be stunned by a division during that time. The plant may still recover. However, completing the division now, before that active growth cycle starts is your best bet. Also if you need some step by step instructions (with pictures) on how to divide an herbaceous peony, please take a look at my How to Divide an Herbaceous Peony guide on my How To page. Good luck with your dividing your peony!

Herbaceous Peony Foliage Active Growth Cycle
(Middle of March)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 Questions - Growing Peonies in South Carolina

I received this question from Tony in zone 8b:
"I live in Mt. Pleasant, SC, zone 8 (“8b” I think) and would appreciate your help with some peonies I’ve planted. My wife is crazy for peonies and I’ve begun to try to cultivate them even though I realize we are at the outer reaches of their comfort zone."

"The herbaceous varieties I purchased and planted 2 years ago were all of the early flowering variety, mainly tending towards the pink/burgundy and white themes. According to directions, I planted them not deep, striving for the tops of the roots being 2” under the soil surface, and in areas that are either full sun or more sun than not. My soil is particularly acidic (typical for this area of SC) and I’ve tried to amend it from the 5.5 pH it started at to somewhere closer to 7.0. In several of the small plots (2-4 plants each) I’ve more or less achieved the hoped-for result, but in several others it may take me another year or so; they are now at 6.0 or so."

"The results, so far, are by no means outstanding. Of the 5 small plots planted so far, the typical is that one or at most 2 stems have come up from each, and in both Summers each plant has grown to approximately 1’ – 1.5’ tall, one single stem, with healthy-looking leaves but few of them. No apparent fungal infections, and each of them brown up and die (over a period of several weeks to a month) and are completely done with their season by the end of August or early September. When the top growth is obviously dead, I clip the stems at ground level and get rid of the clippings. None of the plants has flowered in the two years since planting. I typically sprinkle a bit of 8-10-10 around all my perennials twice a year (early Spring when growth starts, early-mid Summer) and rake it in lightly."

"My question(s) is(are) : Does this scenario sound typical for peonies – at least starting out – for my area? Should I be doing anything different or additional to maximize their potential for success? I will continue to add lime (and scratch it into the soil) to get to, or maintain, a neutral pH; I will continue to drench the plots with a mild fungicide (different each year) in Spring when growth breaks the soil. Until the plants have grown substantially in size and abundance I’ve felt no need to add a drench of minor nutrients like “Palm Nutritional” with Mg, Mn, Boron, Copper, Iron, Zinc, etc."

"I also have one “tree” peony with similar concerns. It has grown but sparingly in the two seasons since I planted it, similar pH concerns, and similar growth slowness and leaves seeming to complete their year’s duties by early September. But since it otherwise appears to be healthy, albeit very slow growing, I am not as concerned about its ultimate survival."

"I would appreciate any helpful hints or suggestions you may be able to render. I’ve not as yet explored your whole website, but I do note that in addition to peonies you also highlight lilies (Lilium, not those ‘imposters’ the daylilies) which are about my favorite flowers ever. If I can find a relatively easy way to keep the deer around here from decimating my lilies – along with about 90% of everything I plant – I will surely be ordering some of those from you in the future. Thank you in advance for your attention."

Peony Eyes Visible at Soil Level

The only thing that really jumps out at me is the 2" below the soil. Herbaceous Peony roots need chill hours in order to develop the blooms for next spring, and the deeper you plant them, the less chill hours they will receive. I am in NC, and I plant my peony roots even with the soil. I do also add a 1" layer of mulch on top of all of mine. However, I usually take care not to put too much mulch around the crown of the plant, and often many of my herbaceous peony's pink buds are visible throughout the winter. If these pink buds are buried too deeply in the soil in our climate, the peonies will not bloom.

That being said, since all of your peonies are relatively young, I would not necessarily expect any blooms yet. However, if I were you, I would lift your herbaceous peonies this fall and bring them closer to the soil surface. Tree peonies are a different story. Since most of them are grafted to a nurse root stock, it is better to plant them very deep (in hopes that the tree peony stem will start to send out roots of its own).

Another thing I was trying to get at with the photos is - What is planted near your peonies? Are they near trees, shrubs, other perennials, a fence, a wall, etc.? Do they have any competition? Is the soil evenly moist, watered on a timer, or left to Mother Nature?

Also my peonies do start to "turn brown" in the summer. It is a slow progression of foliage, whereby a lack of moisture, disease pathogens, and/or fungi affect the foliage over the course of the year. Since peonies only get one set of leaves per year, the foliage will naturally start to look ragged by the end of the summer/early fall. Right now there are some peonies in my yard that have turned completely brown, but most of them are still green/brown.

Also some herbaceous peonies varieties do better in the South than others. I didn't see you mention the herbaceous peony cultivars you were growing. I was going to offer any experience and advice I might have if you could name the cultivars. I personally have only a few tree peonies, and I don't have as much experience with these as I do herbaceous and intersectionals. Here is a page on my site where I recommend peony cultivars that do well for me in the South... Southern Peony Best Performers

Another thing I wanted to mention to you was that intersectional peonies may be something you'd want to try in your climate. Intersectional peonies are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies, and they grow quite well and fast. Many of their blooms are not as large as the herbaceous double peonies, but some of them are larger! One I would definitely recommend is Peony 'Bartzella', a lovely yellow double.

I hope this information helps.

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Questions - Brown Peony Leaves in Late Summer

I received this question from Kay in zone 7:
"My hybrid peony (I only have one so far) is looking scorched and burned. Is this typical this time of year??? I guess it could be rust. Not sure. Here is picture and it is a hybrid Keiko (adored) Itoh Peony. It has been in the ground since early spring. Please give me some guidance as to what you think. It is appreciated."

Kay's Peony 'Keiko' (Adored) with Browned Foliage

Actually late summer is just the time of year that the foliage gets a little tired and starts to die back for the winter. Some varieties do die back earlier than others. It looks like the foliage on your Peony 'Keiko' does have a little bit of blight as well as some die back on the foliage. However I wouldn't worry about it too much. It really is a personal gardening preference of how you'd like to deal with it. I try to stay as natural and organic with my peonies as possible. So I don't usually apply any chemical fungicides. As long as your plant is increasing in size and blooms each year, I wouldn't worry about it. Peonies are a special type of plant that only get one set of leaves per year. So as the year progresses, the foliage naturally tends to get more ragged, bitten, browned, and spotted. Some peony varieties are more resistant to disease than others. Also some peony varieties experience foliage die back at earlier times in the year. For example all of the foliage on my coral peonies has died back by this time of the year, while the foliage on most of my other herbaceous peonies is still alive. It is important to leave the foliage on the plant in the fall since the roots store the energy from the leaves to help the plant survive the winter. Also these storage roots generate the energy needed for the plant to grow and bloom next spring. So fall is a great time to fertilize peonies. I would recommend an organic fertilizer around the plants drip line or a thin layer of compost. I do see you have an automatic watering system. If the foliage on the peony stays wet all the time, the leaves will be more susceptible to the blight, as the wet conditions create a favorable environment for the blight to multiply. So deeper, less frequent waterings are recommended. Once the leaves are completely brown, you can remove them and throw them away in the trash. Do not compost them or leave them on the ground over winter to prevent the blight from multiplying. I hope this information helps, and good luck with your peony!

Monday, July 21, 2014

2014 Questions - Peony Blooms Decrease Over Time

I received this question from Bob in zone 5:
"I live in northern Illinois, zone 5a -20 to -15 F. I bought a Bartzella in the late 1990s directly from Roger Anderson. So it has been planted in the same location for 16 years. The plant has bloomed well except the last two years. In 2013 I had only 5 flowers. This year 2014 I had no flowers. The plant looks to be growing well, it has many stems, good green color. All the stems are strong and tall no wilt. No signs of disease either. The base of the plant is about 14 inches across. In the fall of 2012 I trimmed the stems to about 1.5 inches. Thinking that might have been too short in the fall of 2013 I trimmed the stems to 4 to 5 inches tall. I have other herbaceous peonies in the same area and they bloom well."
"Any ideas on what I should do?"
"These are my ideas"
"1. Divide the plant and replant"
"2. Don’t divide the plant and add bone meal, slow-release nitrogen (Milorganite) and Triple Super Phosphate Plant Food to the drip edge on the plant"
"3. Don’t trim the old growth until the early spring 2015 instead of late fall 2014."
"4. Some combination of 1 and 2"

Bob's Peony 'Bartzella' that is Not Blooming

I would recommend option number one along with a few other ideas. A peony plant that is 16 years old should be divided and probably into more than two pieces. Once you have divided the plant, I would replant one piece in the current location and the other pieces in different locations, especially if you have a location that receives more sunlight than the current location. Also, I'm not sure what you have growing underneath your peony or how long it has been growing there, but it is possible that this groundcover plant could be having a negative impact on your peony, taking moisture and nutrients away from your peony plant. So I would recommend removing this groundcover and using some type of mulch instead. Peonies don't like too much fertilizer, so I would be careful with their use. Instead of constant fertilization, I would recommend amending your soil with compost and/or composted manure before replanting the divided peony pieces. If you don't have compost of your own, bagged compost and composted manure can usually be purchased at most home improvement or hardware stores. As for when to cut back the peony plants, this can be done anytime after the leaves have died back, so late fall vs. early spring should not make any difference in your peony blooms (except that removing the dead stems and foliage earlier may lessen foliar diseases the next year). I hope this information helps, and good luck with your Peony 'Bartzella'!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2014 Questions - Peony Soil Solarization & Weed Control

I received this question from Taherra in zone 7:
"I came across your blog in researching solarization as a method to create new planting beds. Your solarization project for your peony beds was in 2012 and I was curious as to the weed and grass control in that area. Any info/tips would be greatly appreciated."

For me this was an extremely successful project. The weed and grass control has been excellent. The only weeds that grow in this area are generally near the edges of the bed, where weed seeds have fallen from weeds growing outside the solarized bed. I have kept it weed free by mulching the soil with wood chips. I also curb any new weed growth by hand weeding the interior of the bed and spraying a weed killer around the exterior edge of the bed. The steps I took to create my solarized peony bed are outlined in the following posts:
1. 2012 Intersectional Peony Bed Preparation
2. 2012 Peony Bed Soil Solarization
3. 2012 New Dirt for New Peony Beds
4. 2012 Soil for New Peony Beds
5. 2012 Intersectional Peony Garden Planting

Soil Solariztion Tips:

1. The fewer sheets of plastic the better. Try to get your plastic sheet in one whole piece that will cover the area of your bed. This will keep the area hotter with less air escaping between the plastic sheeting.
2. The more weights the better. The bricks I used around the edge of the plastic sheeting not only keep the plastic sheet in place, but also trap the heat underneath. I actually added more bricks to the edges of my plastic sheet after a couple weeks to keep the hot air in.
3. Keep the sheet in place. Don't be tempted to remove the plastic sheeting early. Keep it in place the recommended 6 to 8 weeks to make sure the job is completely done. If you have extra time, then leave it on a little longer. It won't hurt and can only help!

Solarized Peony Bed Two Years Later

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Questions - Transplanting Peonies in the Spring

I received this question from Bahiyyah in zone 7:
"Hello, I love your blog, I have a question for you. I know transplanting in the spring is not best, but I had no choice. Now I have over 100 peonies to replant. Some are very young with only 3-5 eyes. I know to plant those whole. But what about the ones that have large root masses, but only 3 eyes showing. Is it problematic to replant those whole? I remember reading that once dug up peonies prefer to be split to grow properly. Should I trim some root off those. For a visual imagine 8 big juice carrot sized roots, with only three tiny eyes. Also, do you have any tips for soil amending when planting? I have access to leaf mulch, wood chips, well aged horse manure, worm compost and regular compost. Thank you for any and all advice you can offer"

Thank you for such a nice compliment! You are correct in stating that spring is not the ideal season to transplant peonies. Fall is the best season for moving and dividing peonies. However spring is much better than summer, especially if the peonies have not yet sprouted (which is what it sounds like you are describing when you mention that your peonies have eyes - instead of foliage growth). You may notice some reduction in blooms this year, but provided these peonies are replanted in a good location with plenty of sun and nice soil, they should recover nicely. If any of your peonies had enough stems last year to divide (at least 7-8 stems), then you can go ahead and divide those peonies. However if your peonies didn't have very many stems last year and only have 3 eyes with large roots, I would not divide those peonies. Also it isn't necessary to remove any of the storage roots before planting unless you feel need to remove them for some other reason (ex. unwieldy for planting, unmanageable for transporting, diseased, etc.)

As far as soil amendments, I would recommend the leaf mulch and compost and mixing it well into the soil. The horse manure could also be used, but it definitely shouldn't be applied directly to the roots or crown of the plant. The wood chips could be used as a mulch/top dressing only to prevent weed growth. However it is not recommended to mix these into the planting hole, as they can inhibit the peony root's access to nitrogen.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 Questions - Forcing Dormancy in Warm Climate

I received this question from Chris in Zone 10:
"I live in the city of San Francisco and grow peonies in containers on our sunny south facing patio. Have had a great deal of success with blooming. Many varieties have done well.... both herbaceous and tree. However, this year, the peonies won't go to sleep like they are supposed to. I cut down the leaves and stalks of the herbaceous and cut the leaves off all the tree peonies three weeks ago. Now, the red eyebuds are swelling and many are putting out new growth and leaves in late October. It is in the high 40s at night, but we won't get into the 30s in the City. My question is what to do. Should I let them grow? Or prune and force them into dormancy... if possible? This did not happen last year, and the peonies came out in mid January. Thanks for any advice you could share."
Tree Peony 'Dou Lu'
Peony 'Raspberry Sundae'

My concern would be that after you trim the foliage, more would start to grow provided the temps are the same or warmer.

In future years I would recommend leaving the foliage on a lot longer into the late fall/ early winter which should help prevent this premature leafing out. From your email it sounds like you cut back the foliage in early October which is much too early for your growing zone 10b. I am in growing zone 7b, and about half of my peonies that are planted in the ground here at this time of year (early November) still have their foliage. So next year I would recommend waiting until at least the beginning of December or even late December to cut back the foliage in your growing zone. I know the foliage will probably start to look quite ratty, but if it can die back naturally it is best to let it attempt to do so. Also the fall season is when the plant is absorbing the nutrients in the leaves back into its roots. So the longer you can leave the foliage on the peony during this time, the better.

As for this year's early leaf out, I cannot say what will be the best for the plant in the long run. However if the leafing out is not too much, you may attempt to trim the foliage to force the plant into dormancy, but if you select this method I would recommend some other aids in helping to force this dormancy. Do you have a dark, cool place in your home, perhaps a garage or basement? If so you may want to move the potted peonies to a location such as this to limit the temperature and light the plants receive. Also I've heard of other growers in CA putting ice on top of their peonies to simulate a winter chill. This may be another option for you. However I'm not sure how long you would need to maintain an ice covering. So this may be something you'd want to research.

If the leafing out has already developed into a large growth, you may just want to leave the plants as is this year (as long as there is no danger of frost). If for some reason you do get some freezing weather, you'd want to bring the pots in overnight only. Sometimes it is best to let Mother Nature do her own thing. I have ordered some peonies from vendors in cooler areas then mine, and had the peonies leaf out in late fall. I usually just leave them as is. Since I do have frost here in the winter, any shoots that have leafed out will die back when we get a cold frost. This does seem to set the plant back a little in terms of growth and development, but they do always seem to survive. They may just take a little longer to get established. Since you don't usually have any danger of frost, the foliage may grow fine for you.

Good luck with your potted peonies this winter. Please keep me posted on what you decide to do with them and how they fare in the spring! :-)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 Questions - Chinese Tree Peony Seeds Sprouting

I received this question from Gayle in zone 5:
"Just wondering if you have had any success germinating your Chinese Peony seed order? I ordered the same packages and just sowed them. I hope to get a few new plants from the order, however, it is not as easy to germinate seeds as they say. Do you have any secrets for a successful germination rate?"

Honestly I am relatively new to planting peony seeds. Although I have been growing seeds I've harvested from my own garden since 2007, I have only started growing purchased seeds in the last 3 years. I am a very laissez faire gardener, and generally prefer to let Mother Nature do her thing. So all of my peony seeds are sowed outdoors in beds of topsoil. I usually do not add any fertilizer to these beds.

Chinese Tree Peony Seeds Sowed in Peony Seedling Test Bed

I have noticed so far that the seeds I have harvested myself do seem to germinate at much higher rates than any that I've purchased. I'm not sure if this is a factor of age of the seeds, handling conditions of the seeds, or suitability to my growing zone. The seeds I've raised, harvested, and planted myself are mostly lactiflora hybrids. The seeds I've purchased are mainly various types of species peony seeds and the above mentioned Chinese tree peony seeds. So their origins are far and wide around the US and the globe, and really there's no way for me to know the length of time since the purchased seeds were harvested. Whereas when planting my own seeds, I generally plant them the same season they are havested. I definitely want to give these Chinese Tree Peony Seeds some more time to sprout since it's only been a few months since they were planted. I am curious to see if and how many of these tree peony seeds sprout this coming spring. I will keep you posted on their progress. As you can see, they are all nicely labeled and waiting to germinate!

Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 Questions - Source for Peony 'Uncle Tom'

I received this question from Karen in Zone 8:
"I see that you have Auten's Uncle Tom Peony in your inventory. Can you tell me where you purchased this peony? I have been looking for a source for this peony but could not find anywhere. Thanks"

I actually purchased this peony from Gilbert H. Wild several years ago in 2008. This may be one of the few varieties I received from them that was actually labeled correctly. I no longer purchase plants from this vendor due to their rampant mislabeling of varieties (or perhaps it may be more accurately described, unannounced substitutions, who knows?). Anyway they are notoriously known for sending plant material that is not true to name. However their prices are very reasonable, read cheap, and if you are looking for sheer quantities of peonies, not caring about the variety or even color, they can definitely help you with flowers in numbers. Or perhaps you may want to place an order for just excitement to find out years later what color and peony flower type you actually received. I, however, did not find this to be an exciting game, and am still pruning my collection of mislabeled varieties they've sent me. I'm sorry I don't have a more reliable source for you since you are looking for a specific variety, I'm guessing you'd want it to be true to name. It doesn't look like Gilbert H. Wild is even offering Peony 'Uncle Tom' this year or season. However most peony growers do not offer all of their varieties every year. They rotate them in their catalogs according to their available stock (and perhaps to keep things interesting). Hopefully some other vendors will offer this peony to the public again in the near future!

Peony 'Uncle Tom'

Friday, May 24, 2013

2013 Questions - Herbaceous, Itoh, or Tree Peony

I received this question from Tom in zone 9:
"Hello, Was wondering if you have heard from anyone in the Houston, Texas area (zone 9) that has had success with any of the three kinds of peonies: herbaceous, Itoh, or tree peony. I am experimenting with a couple tree peonies, as well as Festiva Maxima and Sarah Bernhardt. (their second year). Have not tried any of the Itoh's yet, but they are reputed to grow and bloom in zone 9 according to some sources. I had a Duchesse de Nemoir which bloomed for me this past March (10 big blooms) from a field run clump grown and dug in North Carolina. I am presuming it received some winter chill in Dec., early January before I planted it late January. Will see what it does next year since it is a blooming size clump. Any information would be appreciated."

Tree, Intersectional, or Herbaceous Peony

I personally have not spoken with anyone else in the Houston, Texas area. However I did find a question on the Texas A&M web site (which is pretty close to Houston) that seems to imply that some herbaceous peonies can grow there. "Q: Why doesn’t anyone grow peonies here? I just returned from Michigan and while perusing the photo album was reminded of how beautiful and bountiful the peonies are every spring. A: The summer is too hot for most peonies in our area. There are a few heirloom selections that will survive if they are planted in good soil in morning sun. [Note: do an internet search for heat tolerant Paeonia species]" So I feel quite confident that you can grow most peonies there. Herbaceous peonies are usually the least heat tolerant of the three types you mentioned. Tree peonies are generally considered to be the most heat tolerant, then intersectional (Itoh), and then herbaceous being the least heat tolerant. When planting your peonies I would make sure to plant the roots as close to the surface as possible in order to allow them to get as much winter chill as possible. I have had some herbaceous peonies stop blooming for me, only to start again the next spring after I had lifted their roots closer to the surface. It sounds like you are starting quite a collection of peonies. I would definitely recommend adding an intersectional peony as well. I have been very impressed with Peony 'Bartzella'. She is just such a stellar grower, very heat tolerant, loves the sun, multiplies rapidly once established, and divides well too. Also you may want to check out some of my other Southern Peony Best Performers for ideas on other plants that might do well for you. I would love to get a report on your peonies and some pictures too in the future. I would say first and foremost to be patient. Peonies take a long time to establish themselves initially. So give them some extra care and time to adjust to your growing climate. Once they feel at home, they will make a nice plant.