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The Best Time to Plant Peonies in North Carolina — Revealed

The Best Time to Plant Peonies in North Carolina — Revealed

Gorgeous and fluffy blooms and lush, attractive foliage, Peonies are one most conspicuous blooming plants in a garden. They’re bold and colorful but at the same time as sweet as a flower gets because of their fragrance. 

Peonies come in a wide range of colors.

Their low-maintenance nature and tendency to have a long garden life make them one of the most popular garden plants. Alliums, Irises, and Digitalis can be planted with Peonies to create beautiful garden settings. 

If you want to enjoy the sweet scent of Peonies in your North Carolina garden, you’ve come to the right place. 


When to Plant Peonies in North Carolina?

The best time to plant bare-root Peonies in North Carolina is early fall. Allowing Peony roots to spend the winter in the soil lets them get established, and there is a high chance of your Peony blooming in the ensuing spring. Peonies planted in spring will take a whole year to start blooming.  


Optimum Growth Environment for Peonies

Peonies are a particularly cold-hardy plant that can be grown across USDA hardiness zones 3-8. It is well known to tolerate the critically low temperatures and long winters of USDA zone 3 in Alaska. 

These beautifully blooming plants like cold temperatures and will thrive in colder climates. It’s never too cold for these plants. They require freezing cold winters to bloom well in the spring. 

During the growing season, Peonies prefer cool to mild temperatures and will stop blooming when temperatures warm up. Most Peony varieties cannot withstand the NC summer heat, so choose a variety known to grow well in North Carolina. 

‘Festiva Maxima’ and ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ Peony varieties are known to perform best in NC.

After spending the freezing winters in dormancy and preparing themselves to bloom, Peonies will grow most vigorously in spring and early summer before temperatures increase above the 70°F (21°C) threshold.

In North Carolina, Peonies will bloom till mid-May. This is when the summer heat starts to have an impact on the blooms. Blooms will ultimately fade away by June. 


Why Should Peonies be Planted in Fall in NC?

The best time to plant Peonies in North Caroline is early fall, which is September or October. This is one of the two times of the year, Peonies can be planted in the ground without killing them.

That being said, the other time Peonies can be planted without having them die in a few weeks is springtime. But planting Peonies in spring is not recommended at all. 

If planted in the spring, Peonies will not bloom that year or even the next. The underlying reason behind this curious phenomenon is a process called vernalization.

Vernalization is the exposure of a plant to freezing cold temperatures for a prolonged period. This cold phase is a must for a particular group of plants to be stimulated to bloom. 

Peonies happen to be one of the plants that need vernalization in winter to bloom in the spring. This is also known as the ‘chill hours’ Peonies need to bloom healthily. 

Although different Peony varieties have different chill hour requirements, the average Peony needs 700 hours of temperatures at or below the 32-37 F (0-4 C) range. 

When we take into account the average daytime winter temperatures in NC, Peonies need 2-3 months of vernalization in North Carolina. A whole North Carolina winter is enough for a Peony to fulfill its chill hours.

If not planted in the fall, the Peony plant will not be able to vernalize and will not bloom in the spring. 

Also, you will have to wait an entire year until the next winter allows the plant to rest in the cold winter and then bloom in the subsequent spring. 

Sometimes even then, Peonies may fail to bloom, and they will need an extra year to start blooming. 

To avoid all this wait, if you manage to plant the Peonies in September or October in your NC garden, you’re sure to enjoy fragrant blooms in the upcoming spring.


When Not to Plant Peonies in North Carolina? 

While Peonies should only be planted in the fall for best results, there are some times of the year you should absolutely avoid planting or transplanting Peonies. 

Well, winter is, of course, not a suitable time to move around Peonies. The ground is already frozen in NC, and there’s nothing much you can do about it.  

Planting in spring, as discussed above, will not kill your plant but will delay the bloom by a year. Summer, however, is the worst time to plant or transplant Peonies. 

Summers in North Carolina are hot and humid, and Peonies do not like such weather at all. If planted in the ground in the warmer months, a Peony plant will most probably wilt and die. 

Peonies are known to grow for more than 100 years in gardens, but they like to do so in one fixed place. These plants don’t like to be transplanted. If you, for some reason, have to transplant a Peony, the best time to do so is in the fall. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Peonies in NC


How to protect Peony leaves from late spring frost?

Although Peonies are very cold hardy plants, they only need cold temperatures for their winter dormancy. In the spring, when they grow foliage, they need to be protected from late spring frosts. Do this by putting a layer of burlap or other frost protection on top of Peonies until the frosts have passed.


Why is my Peony not blooming in the second year?

If your Peony plants bloomed in one year and not in the next year, there can be a range of reasons behind this. The most common reasons are lack of soil nutrients, underwatering or overwatering, pest infestation, or no vernalization.


How to protect Peonies in the North Carolina heat?

Peonies prefer cool to mild temperatures. When planting Peonies, make sure you plant them in a spot that offers protection from the scorching afternoon sun in the summer.