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Am I mad to think about growing peonies?

NollieNollie Posts: 7,051
I am removing all the red roses from my sunny, ‘hot’ border. They are lovely in Spring, but by June they are defoliated by blackspot, struggling to bloom, turned pink and miserable, so are a waste of space the rest of the year (and they do take up a fair a bit of space). I will miss that brief red period of glorious impact but am struggling to find something to replace them that will give a good spring display before the summer perennials kick in. Tulips don’t get the requisite chilling here, Dahlias are great for later on, small-flowered things tend to get lost in that big border... so that’s the background, now to Peonies...

I read that single, early-flowering peonies would be ok in my climate, but would they really? Would it be an all-to-brief show and equally take up valuable border space doing nothing for much of the year? Is it a stupid idea? Here are 3 red peonies recommended for hot climates by an American site. Does anyone grows any of these in a full sun or have any advice? 

Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.


  • EricaheatherEricaheather Posts: 204
    I adore peonies and we treated ourselves to one 3 years ago. This year we got it's first bloom. Just 3 flowers and they were battered by the rain. All gone within a week. We are considering taking it out and replacing it, but have decided to let it have another year and see how it goes. In my very limited experience, I am left wondering are they worth it, with just 3 flowers in as many years. But then maybe we are doing something wrong. I'm sure others will have better experience than me and can advise you better but that's our experience of them sadly.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,428
    I love peonies and have couple that l have rescued from MIL's garden. The one in the ground has been there since last autumn and although it looks healthy enough, it didn't flower this Spring.  I don't think l planted it too deep, but if it doesn't flower next Spring l plan to dig it up, replant it shallower and give it one more try. I think they're lovely if you have the space to spare, but you don't they are taking up space that could be used by a more productive shrub/plant. Their beauty is so fleeting. 
  • I have grown three/four varieties in pots for years (sorry no red ones) and this year since I had a proper garden for the first time in my life so far, I moved them to either end of my long border, the show was spectacular and give or take lasted about a month. Maybe fleeting, but the anticipation and the resulting glory is worth it. The foliage is also beautiful and it's easy enough to use as a background for another plant...thinking of adding some foxtail lilies next year. This year they are fronted by Sysyrinchium Striatum and even more to the front an urn planted with a canna, diamond frost euphorbia and a hardy geranium.
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • EricaheatherEricaheather Posts: 204
    Apparently they don't like being moved and take a couple of years (3 in our experience) to bed in. Not sure how true this is to all types? Putting them in a pot is a good idea @amancalledgeorge and displaying them prominently when in flower. 
  • edhelkaedhelka Posts: 2,322
    I have two, both were moved this year. No flowers. I'll give them the next year but that's it. Or maybe I won't and I use the space for something with a long flowering season (months rather than days/weeks) instead.
    I would be afraid that they get easily damaged by your early summer rains.
    BTW roses here, in my climate, flower together with summer perennials, my full flush is in July, some roses starting in June but the best show starting now. Very different from your climate.
  • I move mine in late autumn and always get blooms. I cut all foliage off and in their new location I always leave the growth 'eyes' exposed.  The blooms do often get ruined in the spring rain though.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,051
    Thanks so much for all your thoughts, hmm, lots to think about! Whether they would survive my conditions or not, when they eventually flower, it does sound like they are a bit fussy and fleeting beauties...

    Given everything flowers about a month earlier, here, I suspect the flowering would be finished before my monsoon rains hit, @edhelka, but it is a concern. I read that the single flowered ones are more rainproof, but maybe not my rainproof!

    I was vaguely thinking of a few for the back of the border with perennials in front then taking over, along the likes of what you do @amancalledgeorge  - what size of pots did you have them in? Do they need to be on the large side?

    The slot the pot in the border for the flower show is a great idea - I could then put the pot somewhere cooler if they struggle in that sunny, exposed position later in the year.
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • HelixHelix Posts: 631
    We have peonies, and it is true that their flowering period is short.  But we love them as they are so flamboyant.  Where we are is baking hot in the summer, extremely cold in winter and with torrential rain wind and storms at any time of year.  We support them from early growth with growing rings, and they cope.   I have one against the house in a south facing border that is bone dry and in full sun.  It manages very well and flowers well.  
  • 1634 Racine1634 Racine Posts: 568
    If I could go back in time I wouldn’t plant any peonies.  I have a 4 year old Sarah Bernhardt that produces 4 or 5 big blooms that are gone in under a week.  I suppose given time it would get better and better but I might need to consider some drastic action this year.  Mine grow in partial shade.  Support always required too.
  • I was probably unclear @Nollie I freed up my pot grown ones and put them in the border...mind you still have two extra varieties in pots ;) Did grow a beautiful Shirley Temple specimen in a pot not larger than 24cm across for five years, it did really well with a top dress of manure to overwinter it with. Now she's having a new life in border. So don't be worried and go for really big pots, they do well in medium sized ones for quite a while. Despite transplanting them in early sprint both Shirley Temple and Coral Charm flowered magnificently. I suppose with your warmer climate make sure you keep up with the watering as they like consistent moisture, but so easy to grow otherwise.  
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
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