Although peonies are hardy, there is no getting around protective measures. This is especially true for the delicate shrub peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa).
Freezing cold is not a problem for either perennial peonies or shrubby peonies. However, the latter are in danger during snowy winters: if the snow load on the shoots becomes too heavy, the branches break off at the base very easily. The wood of these beauties is not very elastic by nature and becomes brittle like glass during heavy frost. In addition, the plants do not branch well and often have only a few basic shoots. Therefore, when the damage is there, in most cases, you have to put the entire bush on the stick and rebuild from the bottom.
A rope as winter protection
You can prevent snow breakage with a very simple protective measure: place a non-incising binding material, such as coconut rope, loosely around all shoots in the upper third and knot the beginning and end together. Tighten the rope slightly to reduce the surface area, but not so much that the branches of the shrub peony are under tension. The rope evenly distributes the load of snow in the winter on all the shoots and ensures that they can support each other.
Protect newly planted peonies
The ideal planting time for all peonies is fall. The late planting date has the advantage that the slow-growing perennials can take root until budding in the spring and grow better in the very first year. Most specialty suppliers ship shrub peonies only in the fall anyway, because the plants sprout very early and in the spring the risk would be too great that the young shoots would break off during transport.
Before the first winter, however, be sure to cover your freshly planted perennials and especially shrub peonies with some leaves and fir brushwood. If they are not yet well established in the ground, they are somewhat susceptible to frost, especially in colder regions. However, it is important that you remove the winter protection early next year. Otherwise, the insulating pile of leaves will cause the plants to sprout very early and also make them susceptible to gray mold due to the warm and humid microclimate.