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Peonies are beautiful flowering plants that have been cultivated for centuries in China. While their blooms look delicate, they are actually very hardy plants that can deal with a wide range of temperatures and weather. In fact, they grow best when they are exposed to cold winters and hot summers.
These tough and prolific plants are also long-living. It is not uncommon for a plant to be passed down through many generations.
How to Identify Peonies
There are more than 30 species and hundreds of varieties of peonies within the genus called Paeonia. These plants grow in many different sizes with flowers that are many different colors and petal formations.
Amongst this family of flowering shrubs is three types of peony plants. They are:
This type of peony produces flowers that are larger and more fragrant than the herbaceous variety. The bush it grows on can range in height from 3 to 7 feet tall. A common type of tree peony is the Cardinal Vaughn peony. Its flower is semi-double and its petals are typically purple or ruby in color.
This type of peony is the most common. It grows in the form of a think stalk that can be as much as three feet tall. These peonies bloom in the late spring to early summertime and their green leaves turn bronze in autumn. Herbaceous peonies typically die back to the ground during, begin to grow in early spring, and usually only produce one flower per stalk.
One of the most familiar herbaceous peonies is the Paeonia Lactiflora. These are native to China, smell amazing, and are commonly sold as cut flowers and used as decoration.
This type of peony is a hybrid between the tree and herbaceous types of peonies. Intersectional peonies are the best of both worlds. They grow smaller, hardier, and produce plenty of flowers. A popular intersectional peony is the Morning Lilac Itoh Peony. It blooms vibrant purplish-pink flowers in a semi-double form that will last up to six weeks.
Along with plant types, another feature that helps to differentiate and identify a peony is its bloom type. There are five different types of blooms within the peony family. They are:
This type of bloom features the flower’s center filled with numerous amounts of broad petaloids that are clearly separated from the guard petals on the outside perimeter.
Full Double Bloom
This type of bloom features a flower with a center that is filled with more petals. The stamen are almost non-existent because there are so many petals in the center crown of the flower.
This type of bloom features broad petals in a single whorl and a central stamen with filaments that are sizeable and conspicuous.
This type of bloom features multiple petaloids mixed alongside the flower’s stamens in the central part of the flower.
This type of bloom features broad petals in a single whorl and a noticeable stamen in the center of the flower.
Popular Types & Varieties
Peonies come in a lot of varieties. Let’s look at each of these in more depth.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its scarlet-red petals.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its spicy fragrance and double-blossoms in a creamy yellow color.
This peony is recognized for its deep pink flowers that grow up to six inches in diameter.
This peony is recognized for its full double bloom of bright fuchsia-pink flowers.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its bright red petals in a single bloom formation.
Bowl of Beauty
This peony is recognized for its 12-inch flowers that are made of rose pink outer petals and lemon yellow staminodes.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its semi-double bloom of mahogany red petals.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its single-bloom of pinkish-red petals.
This peony is recognized for its large purple magenta flowers.
This peony is recognized for its globular full-double bloom of white petals tinged with a creamy yellow color.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its huge coral-colored blooms with golden-colored stamens.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its semi-double blooms of coral to salmon-colored petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its light pink petals and numerous staminodes in either orchid, pink, red, or yellow.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its single-bloom of small red flowers with yellow staminodes.
Fern Leaf Peony
This is a peony that is recognized for its fern-like foliage with bright red single-bloom flowers.
This is a peony that is recognized for its full double-bloom of white petals accented by crimson flakes at its center.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its lavender to pink semi-double blooms that fade in color as they mature.
This is a peony that is recognized for its bright pink guard petals surrounding numerous creamy-colored petaloids.
This is a peony that is recognized for its semi-double blooms of light green guard petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its deep red petals and silver-tipped staminodes.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its full double bloom of pink petals with a center that turns white as it matures.
This is a peony that is recognized for its full double bloom of large and wavy red petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its pure white petals surrounding a round pile of yellow stamens.
This is a peony that is recognized for its small semi-double blooms of blush-colored to white petals.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its semi-double blooms of lavender to dark purple petals.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its semi-double blooms of bright pink petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its large and full double blooms of pink and white.
Pink Hawaiian Coral
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its rose-formation of coral-colored petals.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its greenish-yellow petals with red bases surrounding green carpels and long stamens.
This is a hybrid peony that is recognized for its large flowers filled with pale yellow petals yellow stamens.
This is a peony that is recognized for its bomb-type bloom of pink and creamy white colors.
This is a peony that is recognized for its full double blooms of fluffy, rose-pink petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its full double blooms of rose-pink petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its single blooms of green to ivory petals.
This is a peony that is recognized for its crinkly petals that are streaked in pink and white.
How to Grow Peonies from Seed
This is a time-consuming process, but it is well worth the effort. This process can be done either indoors or outdoors. Here are the steps for both methods.
- Purchase or collect seeds in late summer or early fall.
- Prepare the garden bed in early fall.
- Plant the seeds in the garden.
- Put a plant marker in the soil to delineate where the seeds have been planted.
- Noticeable shoots should appear in the following spring or summer.
- Fill 4 to 6-inch pots with potting soil at the end of September or the beginning of October.
- Moisten the soil.
- Plant the seeds 4 centimeters apart and 2 centimeters deep in the soil.
- Cover the pot with a plastic bag for 3 months
- Set the pot in a warm area.
- Once sprouting is noticeable, move the pot to an area that is just above freezing for several more months.
- Move to a garden bed when the plants are well established.
How to Propagate Peonies
Not only can peonies be grown from seed, but they can also be grown by dividing a plant. Here’s how:
- Use a sharp spade to dig around the peony plant without damaging its root system.
- Remove the plant from the ground.
- Gently dust and wash off the dirt from around the root system.
- Allow the roots to soften in the shade for some time.
- Use a sterile cutting utensil to cut the plant about six inches away from the crown. Each piece should have at least one crown, but three crowns is best.
- Plant the cut pieces.
When to Plant Peonies
It is best to plant peonies in early autumn so they have time to go through a few months of moist weather followed by a cold dormant season.
How to Plant Peonies
Planting peonies is a very simple and straightforward process. The steps to do this are:
- Select a garden location that receives at least six hours of sunlight and has soil that drains well.
- If it is a bare root herbaceous peony, it will need to be soaked in water for a few hours before planting it.
- Prepare a hole in the garden bed.
- Remove the peony plant from its container
- Set the plant in the hole so that its root ball is level with the soil.
- Cover the plant with soil.
- Water the plant thoroughly.
Best Peony Fertilizer
Peonies can be fertilized in early spring with a low nitrogen fertilizer. Miracle-Gro Bloom Booster is an excellent option for feeding a peony plant.
Peony Soil Requirements
Peonies require soil that drains well and has pH levels ranging between 6.5 and 7.0.
Peony Light Requirements
Peonies require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.
Peony Water Requirements
Peonies require 1 to 2 inches of water each week. They are not drought-resistant but they also do not grow well in soggy soil.
Best Peony Companion Plantings
Peonies are beautiful on their own, but they do look great alongside other types of plants. Here are two plants that make great companions for peonies.
These are also beautifully colored and delicate-looking plants that are actually very hardy. Not only do they look as lovely as peonies, but they also have a lot in common with them. These two factors make Bearded Irises the perfect choice for a peony companion.
Common Care Requirements
- Bearded Iris also needs six hours of full sunlight each day.
- Bearded Iris also requires low-nitrogen fertilizer.
- Bearded Iris also grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9.
Positives for Growing a Bearded Iris
- It is a beautiful plant
- It is a perennial
- It is a hardy plant that can last for years
- It thrives in a wide range of temperatures and types of weather
Negatives for Growing a Bearded Iris
- It is susceptible to iris borer and leaf spot
- It is very toxic to animals
These are perennial flowers that are incredibly beautiful and easy to grow. They have bell-shaped flowers that perfectly attractive to hummingbirds.
Common Care Requirements
- Columbine Flowers also require soil that is well-draining
- Columbine Flowers also need plenty of sunlight
- Columbine Flowers also need watering once a week
Positives for Growing Columbine Flowers
- It is a beautiful plant
- It is a perennial
- It is a hardy plant that can last for years
Negatives for Growing Columbine Flowers
- It is susceptible to leaf miners
Peony Diseases and Common Problems
The most common issue faced by peonies is gray mold (botrytis).
Peony Treatments and Maintenance
The best way to prevent botrytis in a peony plant is to put the plants in a garden plot that is far enough from other plants that air will be able to circulate between the plants. Also, it is recommended that a Copper Soap Fungicide be used to deal with any infestations.
Where to Purchase Peonies Online
Peonies are a common plant that can be purchased in-store and online. The following online shops have an excellent selection of peonies for sale.
Answer: Unfortunately, these are toxic plants. The symptoms of poisoning from the consumption of any part of a peony plant are:
If a person or animal has consumed one of these plants and is showing symptoms of poisoning, contact a medical professional or poison control.
Poison Control Center
Animal Poison Control
Ask a Poison Control Vet
Answer: Peonies are able to live up to 100 years.
Answer: These are extremely tough plants that can thrive in zones 3 through 8.
Answer: While these plants do not require a lot of pruning, it can beneficial to cut off dead stems and branches after the blooms have died off.
Peonies are beautiful plants full of variety and longevity. These are plants that can become cherished heirlooms and heartwarming gifts. Treasure your peony plant and they will be a treasure for generations to come.