Peonies in the Sunshine State: Can They Thrive in Florida?

Peonies’ big, beautiful flowers and stunning serrated foliage means that almost everyone wants these plants in their garden. However, peonies need specific environments and care to thrive. With this in mind, we’ll cover if peonies can grow in Florida.

Can Peonies Grow in Florida?

What Type of Environment Do Peonies Prefer?

As mentioned above, there are many different types of peonies, each with specific ideal environments.

Some require full sun to thrive, while others prefer partial shade. And while some peonies can tolerate a bit of heat, others will wither in hot and sunny environments.

In general, peonies grow best in USDA hardiness zones 3–7. These zones exist throughout most of the Mountain West, Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic.

Not only do peonies prefer the cooler summer temperatures present in these areas, but they also require the cold winter temperatures they present. Most types of peonies require 500–1000 hours between 32ºF-40ºF to produce buds and flowers.

Can Peonies Grow in Florida?

Purple peony flowers growing in a tropical garden setting in Florida surrounded by large tropical green plants

So, can peonies grow in Florida? Let’s break down this question to find out the answer.

What USDA Hardiness Zones Exist in Florida?

First, let’s look at the hardiness zones present in Florida.

The Florida Panhandle and northern Florida fall in zone 8b or 9a. Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Gainsville are all within these zones. This means low temperatures fall between 15ºF-25ºF.

Central Florida, including Orlando, Tampa, and Cape Coral, fall in zones 9b or 10a. In these zones, temperatures drop to 25ºF-35ºF during the winter.

The populous cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Hialeah fall in zone 10b. Therefore, low winter temperatures fall between 35ºF–40ºF.

Finally, the most southern parts of Florida—the Florida Keys—fall in zones 11a and 11b. This means that freezing temperatures rarely occur in these areas.

Which Areas of Florida Can Peonies Grow?

Using the information above, you can see that temperatures vary quite a bit across Florida! Therefore, peonies can grow in some parts of Florida but not in others.

Some peonies can grow well in the Florida Panhandle and northern Florida. However, it is too hot in central and southern Florida for peonies.

Planting Peonies in Florida

A close shot of a fluffy white and pink peony flower in full bloom

Even if you live in a cooler area of Florida, you’ll still need to be careful when planting peonies. Both variety and location selection can greatly affect whether or not the plants thrive.

Choosing a Location for Peonies

Since Florida has a hotter climate, you’ll need to be aware of peonies’ sensitivity to heat.

Most peonies require at least five hours of direct sun to bloom during the peony flowering season, but they can also be damaged by the hot afternoon sun. Therefore, the ideal location for Florida peonies is a location that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.

Generally, the east side of a home, forest, or larger plant will provide ideal conditions.

Peony Varieties that Can Grow Well in Florida

A cluster of ruby red peony flowers in bloom with deep green foliage in a Floridian garden

Along with selecting the right environment, you’ll also want to pay attention to variety. 

Some of the most popular peonies are variations of the Paeonia lactiflora species. These Chinese peonies are gorgeous, but they are not well-suited to Southern climates.

However, you can find heat-tolerant peonies and many hybrids of two different peony species. Here are some popular options that can grow well in Florida.

  • Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’: herbaceous peony that grows three feet tall; large semi-double blooms with a beautiful coral color
  • Paeonia ‘Kansas’: large double flowers in a vivid dark pink color; grows three feet tall.
  • Paeonia ‘Halcyon’: single flowers with white petals, magenta centers, and stunning gold stamens
  • Paeonia ‘Cup of Shining Night’: hybrid tree peony that grows five feet tall; large, deep red flowers

Remember that even if you plant heat-tolerant varieties, you should still protect them from the harsh afternoon sun. Providing peonies with regular water until the roots develop.

Plant Peonies with Care

If you live in the cooler regions of Florida, you can grow peonies. However, you’ll need to choose heat-tolerant varieties and plant them in a suitable location. Other flowering shrubs that work well in warm areas include Rose of Sharon and Orange Jasmine.

For other flowering plants to consider for your Florida garden, see our essential guide to 50 beautiful native Florida flowers.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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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