By Abby Debner

Peonies are part of the genus Paoenia and the family Paeoniaceae. They come in two basic types, herbaceous and tree. The herbaceous peony is an herbaceous perennial that dies back in winter, and the tree peony is a deciduous shrub. Peonies are a very hardy and easy to grow plant that Double Peony Flower 'Dinner Plate'make a wonderful addition to any garden that will last for many years.

The peony is native to the Orient, mainly China, where it has been cultivated for over 4000 years. From China the peony found its way over to Japan where it quickly became a favorite of many. In the 18th century both forms of the peony were brought to Europe where they were widely appreciated. Soon after that the peony made its way to the United States where it has been cultivated ever since. The herbaceous peony grows wild all over the Northern Hemisphere, the tree peony, however, only grows wild in China where it is a protected species.

The herbaceous and tree peony both produce magnificent blooms from April to June. Not only are these blooms amazingly gorgeous but they also smell heavenly and make excellent cut flowers. There are five basic forms of peony blooms depending on the species. They are japanese, single, double,semi-double, and anenome-shaped.

Japanese form


Single form Double form Semi-double form Anemone form
Japenese Single Double Semi-Double Anenome-Shaped

Planting Tips:
Due to the fact that peonies require 500-1000 chilling hours between temperatures of 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit they are best suited for colder climates. Peonies need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and lots of room to spread, at least 2 to 3 feet. They prefer deep, rich soil with good drainage. The best time to plant peonies is in autumn. Herbaceous peony buds should lie no more than 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil, any deeper and they won't flower. Most tree peonies are grafted on the roots of herbaceous peonies and so they must be planted almost horizontal to cover as much of the graft as possible.

Peonies do not require much care especially after they are established, however, there are a few tips to follow to ensure their continued success. Be sure that the soil does not dry out Semi-double Peony Flower 'Circus Circus'during growing season, especially right before the plant flowers. After a peony is done blooming one can trim off the dead blooms to approve the appearance and then lightly fertilize to promote new bud growth. Some species of peonies, such as the double-flowering French cultivars, require staking. The best way to do this is to tie it up in multiple natural sections rather than in one big bunch. In autumn the leaves of the peony should be cut back to about 4 inches. The first year they are planted peonies should be covered with a layer of fir twigs to provide winter protection. Although peonies prefer not to be divided, especially tree peonies, the best time to do this is in autumn. Peonies are relatively resistant to disease and pests including deer. They are, however, susceptible to a fungus called Botrytis,which causes the foliage to wilt. This can be easily prevented by spraying the plant with a fungicide.

Fun Facts:

  • State flower of Indiana
  • Seen in ancient times and the Middle Ages as a medicinal plant
  • A Christian symbol of wealth, feminine beauty, and healing powerTree Peony 'Rock's Variety'
  • Name given by Paian, physician of the Greek gods
  • Contrary to common thought ants are not needed to make it bloom
  • Comes in virtually all shades except blue
  • In China called sho-yo, which means most beautiful
  • Most species live for 50 years or more



Japanese Peony Flower 'White Cap' Double Peony Flower 'Souvenir du Prof. Maxim Cornu' Single Peony Flower 'Daisy Coronet' Rock Garden Variety 'Little Red Gem'  



For questions or comments please contact: Abby Debner