True royalty among garden plants, peonies feature blossoms that can take your breath away. But growing peonies requires more than just a penchant for their vibrant color and sweet scent. From planting peonies to peony care, there are plenty floral facts you should know before peony season.
Peonies do flourish in areas with long, cold winters, but this doesn’t mean they’re only Northern flowers. While peonies perform best in the Upper and Middle South, some do tolerate mild winters; the blooms have been spotted as far South as Jackson, Mississippi and Montgomery, Alabama.
One type of peony is especially suited for the Southern climates
There are a few types of Peonies, and only one is best suited for the lower Southern climate. Herbaceous peonies die to the ground each winter, and grow brand-new stalks in the spring. Herbaceous varieties require more than 400 hours of near-freezing temperature, which is hard to come by in places with mild winters. Tree peonies, on the other hand, identifiable by their sturdy trunks, only need between 100-300 hours of chill time each year, making them more suitable for the deep South.
But this more of a blessing than a curse, because ants play an important role in helping peonies bloom. Ants are attracted to the sweet nectar found inside peony buds; when they climb inside the buds, they help them open. Plus, ants help keep other (damaging) insects away.
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, these beautiful blooms take a few years before they bloom. Herbaceous peonies don’t usually bloom the first year they’re planted, and tree peonies take two or three years longer to flower.
It’s easy to get carried away with these gorgeous blooms, but when you cut them, make sure that you leave at least three buds behind on every stem that you cut. Don’t remove more than half of the blooms from any clump, as this will critically damage food reserves.