The Q&A Archives: Growing Peonies In Israel

Question: I have a friend from Israel who picked up a peony in Vermont recently and brought it to Israel. She has already planted the peony. The root will not be able to undergo a vernalization process. Is it necessary for it to be vernalized? If so, should she dig it up and leave it in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks? There is no possibility that in Israel there will be a prolonged cold spell that will vernalize the peony. Any ideas?

Answer: Sometimes growing a plant out of its normal preferred range is really tough and more trouble than it's worth -- or very disappointing.

It is true that this plant will not bloom if it is not exposed to cool enough temperatures for a period of time. Your friend might be able to accomplish this by growing the plant in a large container (such as a half whiskey barrel size) and moving the container into a walk-in refrigerator to simulate winter.

Peonies are particularly difficult to grow in containers however. The main problem is that they resent root disturbance. Some root disturbance will be unavoidable when it comes time to renew the potting mix -- the mix will compact and become lifeless over time and will need to be replaced periodically.

Since it may take a peony several years to settle into a new location and decide to bloom even under ideal circumstances, I would not be too hopeful about achieving a good display with it.

I'm sorry I just can't be very encouraging.

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