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.
Peonies are perennial plants that are members of the Paeonia genus. This genus has between 30–40 different species of plants.
Some peonies are herbaceous plants that have foliage that dies back each winter. Other types are taller woody shrubs.
Peonies are known for their large and showy flowers. Depending on the variety, these flowers vary in color, fragrance, size, and shape.
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 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?
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. In general, areas with lower latitudes and lower elevations will have higher hardiness zones.
Many populous cities in California are too warm for peony plants to grow. Los Angeles and San Diego are in zone 10a, which means winter temperatures don’t fall below freezing. Along with these warm winter temperatures, these cities also have hot summer temperatures.
While San Francisco is also in zone 10a, its summer temperatures are lower than those found 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
Before you grow peonies in California, you should figure out the hardiness zone of where you live. If the hardiness zone is 8 or above, you’ll need to choose peony varieties that are well-suited for warmer temperatures.
If summer temperatures in your area regularly get above 90ºF, you should plant your peony plants 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
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
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, 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.
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.
For more, see our in-depth guide on growing peonies in your garden.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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