Peonies in California: A Growing Guide for West Coast Gardens

While California is known for beautiful environments that range from Redwood forests to palm-lined beaches, gardeners still want to bring beauty to their homes. If you’re planning a California garden, you may wonder if you can grow peony flowers in California. Keep reading as we explore this question.

Can Peonies Grow in California?

What USDA Hardiness Zones Do Peonies Thrive In?

Most peonies are native to temperate regions in North America, Asia, and Europe. Therefore, these plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones 3-7.

Some varieties of peonies can survive in the USDA hardiness zone 8.

While peonies cannot survive extended periods of hot temperatures, their ideal growing zone also relates to chilling hours. Most types of peonies require between 500–1000 hours of temperatures between 32ºF–40ºF to produce flowers during the peony flowering season.

If winter temperatures are not cold enough, the plants will not produce the buds and flowers they’re known for.

Can Peonies Grow in California?

The lush landscape of California filled with colorful flowers and green hillsides

As you probably already know, California is a big state! Therefore, peonies can grow in some areas of California but not in others.

To determine which regions of California peonies can grow in, you’ll need to look at the USDA hardiness zones.

California hardiness zones range from 5a to 11b. That means there’s tons of variation in temperature within the state!

Both the latitude and elevation can significantly impact the hardiness zone. Areas with lower latitudes and elevations will generally have higher hardiness zones.

Many populated cities in California are too warm for peony plants to grow. Los Angeles and San Diego are in zone 10a, so winter temperatures don’t fall below freezing. These cities also have hot summer temperatures.

While San Francisco is also in zone 10a, its summer temperatures are lower than those in more southern cities. Therefore, some types of peonies can grow well in The Golden City.

Some types of peonies can also grow well in California cities, including Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose, and Chico.

How to Grow Peonies in California

Pink peonies bloom with vibrant green leaves in a Californian garden

Before you grow peonies in California, you should determine your hardiness zone. If it is 8 or above, you must choose peony varieties well-suited for warmer temperatures.

If summer temperatures in your area regularly exceed 90ºF, plant your peonies in an area that receives afternoon sun. This will help protect the plants from intense heat.

If you live in zone 7 or below, you likely don’t need to provide your plants with afternoon sun. Instead, you should choose the light conditions based on the individual variety’s preferences (some will even grow in the shade).

Choosing Peony Varieties to Grow in California

A collection of white peonies with yellow centers flowering in a Californian garden with a home in the background

If you live in cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Fresno, you need to be careful when selecting peony varieties. While some types of peonies can thrive in these locations, others cannot.

Many popular peonies belong to the species Paeonia lactiflora. These herbaceous peonies thrive in cooler regions, and most varieties generally do not perform well in southern, central, and coastal California.

However, many types of tree peonies and intersectional peonies (hybrids of herbaceous peonies and tree peonies) can grow well in these areas.

Here are some specific peony varieties that you can try growing in zones 8 and 9 in California.

  • Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’: double flowers with strikingly white flowers streaked with magenta
  • Paeonia lactiflora ‘Charlie’s White’: an early-blooming herbaceous variety; white flowers with ruffled interior petals and smooth outer petals
  • Paeonia ‘Kansas’: hybrid herbaceous peony; double flowers with a vibrant magenta color
  • Paeonia ‘Coral n’ Gold’: hybrid herbaceous variety that grows about three feet tall; produces single blooms with bright pink petals and yellow stamens.

Caring for Peonies in California

Bright pink peony flowers blooming in California

After you select a suitable peony variety, you’ll need to properly care for it if you want it to thrive.

While peonies can handle short periods of drought once their roots are established (peony roots can also freeze in winter), they will need regular watering during their first year. Aim to water your peony a few times a week during the summer.

You should also ensure your peony has access to enough sun. Most varieties require at least five hours of light each day to thrive.

Wrapping Up

If you’d like to grow peonies in California, start by researching your hardiness zone. You can then choose a suitable peony variety and provide great care.

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