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Growing Peonies In The South

2 years after transpanting
The peony is one of the most beloved plants throughout the United States. Once you see them in bloom, you will then want peonies in your garden. Unfortunately growing peonies in the deep south can be a lesson in futility. The problem is not one of survival, all of the peonies I planted survived, they just refuse to bloom. After about six years of trial and error, I finally have beautiful peonies. They have progressed from plants with one or two blooms the year they were transplanted to plants with upwards to 14 blooms the second year. A common assumption is that peonies cannot handle the southern heat. I have found that peonies do fine in full sun with daylilies. Just remember that all plants in the south love some shade and my peony bed gets morning shade and afternoon sun. I cannot say that peonies planted in an area with no shade at all will bloom. Too much shade is also not good. The closest I came to losing my peonies was planting them in almost full shade in an attempt to protect them from the summer heat. What peonies need to bloom is the south is sufficient cold during the winter months. The question then becomes how to get the required amount of cold. Peonies need about 3 weeks of cold, 32 degree, weather for them to bloom, so the key to growing them is planting them in such a way as to maximize their exposure to the cold. The way I plant them is designed to do just that.

You want to start by finding the right location for the bed. An area that receives morning shade year round is ideal. An evergreen tree or building will provide this, trees that lose their leaves won't. What the winter morning shade provides to the bed is that it keeps the peony plants in a colder environment longer. On the occasional cold morning, the shade will delay the warming rays of the sun. Do not plant peonies close to a heated building as the building will radiate heat throughout the night.

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