5 Things You Need To Know If You Want To Grow Your Own Peonies

How to get these persnickety showstoppers in your own backyard.

There's no denying peonies are the IT flower of late. They're on every magazine, all over Pinterest, and I'm willing to bet, a feature of every spring shower—baby, bridal, or otherwise. But for their ubiquity in garden shops every spring, they're actually quite the feat to grow every year. They're the goldilocks of the cut-flower world, wanting conditions that are juuuust right. Here's a few planting pointers so your garden is peony paradise—for you and them.

1. Cater To Your Zone

Peonies like cold winters, and that's hard to recreate in the South. (They like USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 7, but can grow in Zone 8.) But, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Tough selections like the 'Festiva Maxima' and 'Sarah Bernhardt' can handle the warmer winters, and are great options for Southern gardens. Or grow a tree peony, a larger shrub with woody stems and enormous flowers.

2. Give Them Time

Peonies need time both to settle in and then to bloom. Plant in moist, fertile, well-drained soil in the fall, as they grow better that first year if they have the benefit of being in the soil during winter. Then, don't expect blooms for two to three years after planting. After that, you could have flowers for decades with the proper care.

3. Give Them Space

When planting, allow no less than 4 feet between plants, even though they will start small and grow slowly before reaching a mature size of 3 feet wide (tree peonies grow to 5 feet wide). Planting them too close together can lead to "leggy" plants. Plus, plenty of airflow helps with disease prevention.

4. They Need Sun, Sun, Sun

Though they desperately need the cold, they do need to be planted in full sun down South. Oftentimes, shade in the Southern zones will just result in leggy plants, which means weaker plants. In hotter areas, you can provide some light shade in the afternoon hours. Tree peonies will tolerate partial shade.

5. Buy Yourself Some Time

If you want the look of well-established peonies but don't want to wait 10 years, it is possible to buy mature plants. Sites like Terra Ceia Farms will sell you a mature plant, which they have raised for the first 10 or so years.

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