Growing red & pink peonies in South Africa

by Lala

Aren’t these the weirdest looking things? On Friday my red and pink peonies arrived via courier, from Hadeco as they promised. Or rather the peony corms/rhizomes arrived. They are not really true bulbs & the varieties are not named. I should probably email them to ask, but I’m preoccupied with a few other exciting/ big picture things right now. I do know that these are herbaceous peonies, not tree peonies, from the size and shape of the roots.

I bought these peonies a month or so ago at the same time as the ranunculus. Hadeco releases the bulbs at very specific times of year so that we gardeners don’t mess up planting times and meet with disappointment. So I got the ranunculus right away and the peonies afterwards. You can read more about different types of bulbs and when to plant them in your area from the previous post: A beginners guide to bulb gardening.

Peonies need 30 straight days of below freezing temperatures so these were certainly treated via cold storage. We planted them in shady areas around the garden, and left the “eyes” aka those pinkish growing tips slightly poking out of the ground, which is recommended for warmer areas to ensure they flower well. If they are totally covered with soil they won’t get cold enough to do well in summer & one may end up with many leaves but no blooms. I read many posts on growing peonies in California, Florida and the warmer parts of Texas.

It is definitely possible to grow them in these warmer climes, as long as you place them somewhere shady (in the areas where they are usually grown, full sun is recommended) & don’t bury the growing tips too deeply, or at all. From these forums I also learnt that contrary to popular belief, one can grow peonies in pots. I gave 6 corms to my friend’s mother and she will likely plant hers in pots. Pots have the advantage of keeping the roots cooler than those planted in garden beds and they can be moved around in response to weather. The peony roots just need to be given enough space in the pots as they grow.

I’m not holding out for masses of blooms this spring or summer, as they often don’t flower in their first season, or only produce a couple of blooms. My only wish is that they establish themselves in their spots, survive the dogs, the heat to come, and just put out leaves this year. Any flowers will be a huge bonus. We did plant 4 outside the yard, so they will definitely be safe from the pack. Ciao for now!

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9 comments

Belinda Mclintock September 8, 2018 - 11:12 am

Lala tell me how your peonies did and where you are in south africa?

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Lala September 13, 2018 - 9:59 pm

Hi, I’m in Gauteng. They didn’t do well at all. I grew them in one of our hottest, driest summers with water restrictions so they fried not long after emerging. I meant to grow them in pots afterwards, but I never got around to it.

I’m now moving to China where many of them originate. Perhaps I will try again there if I have some space.

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Carol-Ann Blakeway January 19, 2019 - 8:57 am

I would like to buy Peony bulbs from you. Please advise where and how I can buy your peonies.

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Lala April 30, 2020 - 2:23 pm

Hi, I do not sell peonies. Check Hadeco’s website or contact Winterberg Peonies on instagram (they’re a fam in the Eastern Cape). Hadeco usually only makes the bulbs available in winter during the correct planting time.

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Amanda Harrison October 8, 2019 - 4:11 pm

I’m looking to get some but not sure where to buy from..I’m from Zambia in Africa.

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Lala April 30, 2020 - 2:21 pm

Check Hadeco’s website or contact Winterberg Peonies on instagram (they’re a fam in the Eastern Cape). Hadeco usually only makes the bulbs available in winter during the correct planting time.

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Neil de Kock November 6, 2019 - 12:59 pm

Hi Lala,

In South Africa, when is the best time to plant your peony bulbs? I am based in Cape Town.

– Neil

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Lala April 30, 2020 - 2:20 pm

Hi Neil, winter is the best time. Check Hadeco’s website or contact Winterberg Peonies on instagram (they’re a fam in the Eastern Cape). Hadeco usually only makes the bulbs available in winter during the correct planting time. Winterberg Peonies sells the full plants & cut flowers. I haven’t purchased from them though.

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Peony bloom success with a surprise – The Rain Queen April 30, 2020 - 3:53 pm

[…] finally have my own peony plant in bloom, after a failed previous attempt at growing peonies in South Africa back in 2015. My top tip for growing peonies in South Africa is to grow them in pots, particularly […]

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