Peony Tips for Warm Region Gardeners
Often the question arises, "I love peonies but live where it may be too warm for them. . . can I grow peonies in my area?" Here's some advice that will help you determine if peonies are likely to thrive in your region.
Garden peonies appreciate cold weather during the winter and require at least 30 consecutive days of below freezing temperatures. The goal here is to keep the roots cold, so freezing and thawing weather isn't what's needed. Before buying any type of peony, consider whether you can provide sufficient dormancy period cold weather for your peonies to thrive and bloom.
If you live in zones 7 and 8, select peony varieties that bloom early in the season, before your late spring/early summer weather gets too hot. Each cultivar's description on this website includes information as to whether it is an early, midseason or late bloomer. Recognize that zone 8 represents the edge of weather where peonies will successfully bloom so planting in zone 8 is a bit of an experiment. Peonies that bloom mid to late season may survive in warm areas but they are unlikely to flower profusely and dependably.
The planting depth of your peony roots is critical to flower production. The rule of thumb is to plant the "eyes" or little pink or red growing points 1" to 2" under the soil, with the deeper end of the range preferable in the coldest regions (zones 3-5). Gardeners in warmer areas will have best results if they plant only 1" deep (zones 6 and 7) or even just 1/2" deep in zone 8.
In hot areas site your peonies where they'll get a little protection from the fiercest afternoon sun. A location with filtered late day light is ideal.
Keep in mind that regardless of where you grow peonies, when mature, these plants produce lots of big, and usually heavy, flowers. (Which is one of the reason you love them, right?) The double and semi double blossom forms are densely petalled and tend to catch rain or sprinkler water. Placing ring or crisscross supports over young plants will allow shoots to grow through the supports, adding stability to blooming stems, and eventually becoming almost invisible in the dense foliage. On the glass-half-full side, if your peonies flop in the rain it provides the perfect excuse to cut to your heart's content, bring bunches to the office, share with friends and place bouquets all around the house. How awful would that be?