Peonies for Hot Climates - Knowledgebase Question

San Diego, CA
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Question by genette
December 3, 1997
Growing up on the east coast, I always enjoyed a profusion of peonies in the spring. I've been living in San Diego, about 10 miles inland from the coast, for the past 20 years. Ever since moving to San Diego, I've been wanting to grow peonies andyet every nursery in the area tells me that peonies will not grow in our climate. However I see fresh peonies in various florist shops every spring at a cost of $8-15 per stem. Is it true that peonies will not grow in our climate? If they could grow, albeit with extra care, what is the extra care I would need to provide? Are there any particular varieties which might fare better than others in my climate?

Answer from NGA
December 3, 1997
Your frustration in not being able to grow peonies is understandable - they are truly gorgeous flowers. The peony (genus Paeonia), requires a pronounced winter chill to grow and bloom. Peonies are also sensitive to having their roots disturbed once they become established in the garden. So, even if you bought peonies, planted them, and then dug them up and placed them in the refrigerator for a few months each year, they'd only sulk and refuse to perform.

You might have some luck with tree peonies (P. suffruticosa), a shrub from China that grows to about 6 feet high with yellow or salmon colored flowers, or P. lutea, which grows 3-6 feet tall with large yellow flowers. This one's from Tibet. Both of these varieties will grow and bloom without the deep chill required of their Japanese cousins.

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