Peony News

Have you ever wondered if you can grow peonies where you live?

Peony flowers are so beautiful and exotic looking that it surprises some to learn that they thrive in areas with cold winters. When I mention that they grow in Alaska, Canada, Russia and Siberia, the ears perk up, as they thought it might be too cold to grow a peony where they have a cold or snowy winter. When they hear that Minnesota has many peony farms and growers – they immediately tune in; because they know (or have heard) how brutal the winters can be there. They smile in knowing, that they, too, can raise peonies. Peonies thrive across the Northwest, Midwest and Northeastern U.S.

growing peonies

What about growing peonies in warmer winter areas? You may be in luck.

A rule of thumb for growing peonies is to have at least 480 winter chill hours (hours below 45°). 

There are warmer winter areas across the southern part of the U.S. were peony plants don’t get enough winter chill for root dormancy to produce the spring flowers; or, perhaps it's too humid. But, scattered throughout that same region are many areas that do get enough winter chill to grow peonies. California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and other southern states have many areas with enough winter chill hours to grow peonies.

To help you pinpoint whether or not peonies will grow and thrive in your warmer climate, check with area gardeners, your local garden center or one of the winter chill maps/calculators available online.

I stumbled upon the Midwestern Regional Climate Center’s website filled with information on winter chill. Their Vegetation Impact Program features ‘winter chilling hours’ maps of the U.S. - a wealth of information for growers of all kinds of plants.

For California gardeners, the University of California, Davis publishes Chill Calculators for areas within all counties. The variation throughout the state is eye-opening, with so many pockets of peony growing conditions.  

If you live where ‘you can’t grow peonies’ – it’s sometimes amazing to learn that you do have enough cold temperatures to grow peonies. With a bit of research, you might be on your way to growing these ‘exotic’ flowers in your garden.

Our Brooks Gardens 2018 peony catalog is online. These peony roots will be shipped during the fall planting season, beginning in early September, 2018. Fall is the best time of year to plant bare root peonies.

We offer a selection of colorful, fragrant peonies in a variety of flower styles, including compact plants, heirlooms and the Itoh intersectional peonies.

We identify many peonies that stand up well to the weather (no staking needed) as upright or best choice peonies. All Itoh intersectional plants have great upright plant habitat - they don't fall over in the wind and rain. There are so many choices in peonies today - take a look and find your favorites. 

Order early to reserve your choice, freshly dug, bare root peony plants. Get growing - and plant something stunning! 

U.S. and Canadian orders may be placed online. Contact us for other international orders. 

Thinking ahead to a spring wedding in Oregon? Want peonies?

Fresh cut peony flowers are seasonal - they are available from approximately mid-May through June in Oregon. Depending upon the weather, they may be available in early May.

We sell budded peonies in bulk and small quantities at our peony farm (located between Salem and Portland).

Budded peonies are available in blush, coral, lavender pink, pink, red, white and mixed colors. Being flexible on shades of colors allows more choices. 

The peony flowers are available for pick up at our farm (we do not ship cut peonies). 

Demand for peony flowers is strong, so you may want to reserve early.

Contact us for details on ordering cut peonies for a spring wedding or event. We'll give you tips on opening the buds for the best impact on the big day.

Cut peonies are also available in July and August from the Alaska peony growers.

Questions about Peony Plant Care in the Winter?

You really don’t need to do anything to or for your herbaceous bush peony plants in the winter. But, if you realize you forgot to cut down the stems in the fall, you can do that now.

What happens if you don’t cut bush peony stems off in the fall?

The leaves and stems of herbaceous (bush) peonies, including the intersectional Itoh peonies will eventually die back as the plants go dormant for the winter. The leaves will start to deteriorate and the stems will fall to the ground and turn ‘mushy’. This is natural. the plant roots are not dying – they will grow new shoots/stems in the spring. Sometimes people panic and think their peony has died; but, this is the natural growth cycle of bush peonies.

When peony stems are cut off, near ground level, take care not to cut any exposed peony ‘eyes’ (usually pink or red buds) that will be next years’ stems. Dispose of the stems and leaves in the garbage. Do not compost peony leaves and stems, as they may attract botrytis (fungal disease), particularly in wet conditions. Clean up the ground area around each peony plant.

Mulching peonies is not required in most areas. If you do mulch your herbaceous bush peony plants, be sure to remove the mulch in the early spring to prevent the roots from being buried too deeply. Years of bark dust or mulch placed around bush peonies will eventually result in the roots being planted too deep – and you may see less blooms in the spring. Be sure to scratch that off, leaving just an inch or two of soil above the roots of herbaceous bush peonies.

It’s also natural that the crown of a mature peony eventually heaves up through the soil and shows some exposed ‘eyes’ in the winter. Don’t fret – peony plants love cold winters.

Tree peony leaves will also deteriorate and need to be removed from the branches and ground. The branches on a tree peony are not cut down in the fall – leave them standing, bare naked for the winter. In the event you or a helper cuts a tree peony down to ground level and you panic in despair – don’t worry too much. The roots are likely established enough to grow new branches in the spring. In 2 or 3 years it may be an amazing, reinvigorated tree peony. I know, as I have seen this happen. Tree peonies actually prefer more soil on top of the roots than bush peonies. If you have a tree peony that has lost its exuberance – try adding a couple of inches of soil around the base of the trunk. Yes, it’s just the opposite of recommendations for bush peonies. 

When the snow melts and you have a nice day, you can get back outside and tackle any 'forgotten' stems.  

Canadian orders for peony roots can now be placed directly online through our online catalog. 

The shipping fee includes the $35.00 fee for a USDA phytosanitary certificate. Check our rates under our Shipping/Info tab.

Please contact us if you have any questions. 

This story is from our May 2014 Memorial Day weekend blog - sometimes I just chuckle thinking about it:

Many of you will enjoy family gatherings, road trips or other special traditions this weekend. Decorating graves is a long tradition for many of us. It can be a time of fond reflection while honoring veterans, relatives and friends. What can be better than decorating with beautiful peonies? Well, for some, it can be iris.

A gentleman drove up to the farm today and asked if we sold cut iris for Memorial Day. I told him we have iris plants, but not cut iris stems this year. I said we have lots of cut peonies available. He squirmed a bit and said he had his heart set on iris. I sensed that his tradition was iris. I referred him to our neighbors, Schreiner’s Iris and told him they should have cut iris available this weekend. He seemed relieved. He then told me the story – the story of his aversion to beautiful peonies.

He said peonies are lovely; but, he just had to have cut iris for Memorial Day. When he was a young boy, his Mother had peonies – big, beautiful, fine peonies. One year, just as the peony buds swelled, ready to burst forth with the most magnificent blooms his Mother would see each spring, he was overcome by an idea.

He was playing outside as he realized he could swing his baseball bat at just the height of those peony buds; and swing he did. It was like a home run. The adrenaline rushed. He batted those buds and batted again, knocking each one to the ground - his Mother’s prized peonies. “Well”, he said with a bit of remorse and a slight chuckle, “it left a very deep impression upon me; not only on my backside, but embedded in my mind each time I see a peony. Peonies are beautiful, but I have to have iris.” He thanked me for the referral and directions to the neighbor’s farm and headed out to get his cut iris. I’m hopeful they had some for him.

Here at Brooks Gardens, we’re all about peonies and iris….and some days, great stories.

Finish dead heading your peonies if you got sidetracked after bloom season. It not only tidies up the plants, but let’s more energy go into next years’ bud and root development.  Cut off any unsightly leaves and trim stems to even up your plants to whatever is pleasing to your eye.

While peonies are rather drought tolerant, a bit of water keeps the foliage from stressing between rains; as well as nourishes the plant for next season. When there isn’t much rain, the soil dries out a lot faster, so adding moisture to your gardens will keep things growing nicely. Water peonies in containers frequently during hot weather, as they tend to dry out fast.

If you didn’t deadhead in June, you will likely find some seed pods on some of your peony varieties. I often receive questions about ‘what those hard, leathery growths are’ on the ends of the stems. Most folks are pleased to hear that they are seed pods and might actually be fertile. Prolific peony seed producers include Blitz Tort, Delavan Rose, Flame, Lemon Chiffon, Lois Kelsey, Nosegay, Picotee, Villosa and White Sands. Sometimes I leave a few spent flowers on particular varieties when I am dead heading, to produce open pollinated seed in late summer. Other times I leave a few on varieties that never or rarely produce pods – just in case ‘this is the year’.

It’s a bit early to think about ripe peony seed in July…..but, we’re a couple of weeks ahead of average weather in Oregon. We had an early spring and the crops are all keeping that full speed ahead pace this summer. I noticed some cracked-open seed pods on quite a few Paeonia mlokosewitschii over a week ago.  As I scouted the peony seed pods in the field today, I saw quite a few that are already opening. Yikes! Nosegay seed are already scattered. This is far ahead of the usual mid-late August seed ripening. Keep an eye out to catch the pods starting to crack open and then harvest your seed. I put mine in a bowl of water and discard the floaters (likely hollow or underdeveloped) and plant or pot up the sinkers. Some will sprout next spring and some the following spring. Be sure to label the seed parent (and the pollen parent if you hybridized it). With a bit of patience you may grow the next, best peony plant.