Overview and Description:
Peonies are beautiful, often fragrant, clump forming perennials with large cupped or ruffled showy flowers. They are long-lived and easy to grow.
- Foliage: Deeply lobed, dark green leaves. New foliage is reddish and appears early in spring.
- Flowers: The flowers can be single, double or anemone-like, in shades of white, pink and red.
Peony, Herbaceous Peony
Peonies need a period of cold weather, to set their flower buds. They are hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8. If you are zones 7 or 8, plant your peonies in an area with a northern exposure or a frost pocket, to ensure they get the required cold temperatures.
Size will vary somewhat with variety, but most mature plants grow to about 1½ - 3½ ft. tall x , 2-3 ft. wide
Bloom time depends on the variety and your zone, but expect flowers sometime in May or June.
Honestly I've never seen a peony that wasn't gorgeous, but here are a few that really caught my eye.
- 'Golden Spring' - Soft yellow anemone type. Gorgeous, but pricy.
- ’Krinkled White’ - An early season anemone style with pink tinged white petals and a golden yellow center
- ‘Peppermint Stick’ - A showy, ruffled variety with white, pink and red stripes.
- ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ - An popular old variety that is late blooming, with soft pink, fragrant double flowers.
Large clumps of peonies can be used as an anchor in a border. They also pair especially well with the spiky leaves and flowers of bearded iris, which bloom at the same time.
Planting: Peonies are generally started from divisions or tubers. The best time to plant is in the fall, so that the tubers can get the winter chill they need. .Plant them shallowly. To be sure they get a chill, they should not be planted more than a few inches below the soil surface. For more details, check out Planting Peonies.
When in flower, peonies can easily become top heavy and will benefit from staking. You can find round, metal hoops that are actually called 'peony stakes', for this purpose, but you can just as easily fashion something yourself, with stakes and string. It's easier to stake peonies early in the season and allow them to grow into the stakes, rather than trying to corral them once they are grown.
Herbaceous peonies never need to be divided. If you want to divide them to make more, the best time to do it is in the fall. However new division need time to adapt and they may not bloom the following year.
Pests and Diseases
Peonies are susceptible to botrytis or gray mold. Early applications of fungicide and removal of infected leaves will help. Remove the peony foliage in fall, to prevent overwintering of botrytis spores
More Long-lived Perennial Flowers
- Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
- Coneflower Echinacea
- Coral Bells Heuchera
- Lady's Mantle Alchemilla mollis
- Jacob's Ladder Polemonium
- Tickseed Coreopsis