The Q&A Archives: Peonies

Question: I live in Soutnern California, San Gabriel Valley, and would like to have a peony garden. I have a few that are still in their pots that I'm nursing along, but they never bloom. (bush variety)

How and where should I plant them in the ground for success?

Answer: Herbaceous peonies are perennial plants which lose their foliage after the first frost of the season. In order to perform well, they need a pronounced period of cold weather. Herbaceous peonies generally do not grow well in mild winter climate areas such yours. Tree peonies, on the other hand, require less winter chill, and perform reliably well in southern California. Enjoy your herbaceous peonies for now, but if you're serious about growing peonies, choose tree peonies instead.

Plant tree peonies in a site with full sunshine, in rich, well-draining soil. Be sure to prepare the soil well prior to planting - peonies dislike having their roots disturbed once they're established. Incorporate some well-rotted manure or compost and mix in some high-phosphorus fertilizer before planting, and be sure to plant your peony at the same soil level as it was in the nursery pot. Water well after planting and supply one deep soaking each week during the spring and summer months, tapering off during the fall and winter. Remove spent flowers as they fade, and prune out any dead stems to keep your peony looking neat and trim.

Enjoy your tree peony garden!

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