Answer: Peonies bloom well only when they experience a period of pronounced winter chill. In your central California growing area they should bloom reliably for you most years. Since your summers can be quite hot, choose early blooming varieties and give your peonies some afternoon shade. (Japanese varieties are especially well-suited to your region.) Early fall is the best time to plant - you may still have time this year if you hurry! The planting site should be deeply dug and amended with compost or other organic matter. Plant them carefully. If planted too deep they will refuse to bloom. Set the roots so the eyes are pointed upward and cover them with 2" of soil. Mulch over the planting area with organic matter. The exact bloom time will depend upon the varieties you choose. Good luck with your new peonies!
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