Sunday, January 23, 2011

Peony-Spring Splendor in the Garden


Paeonia lactiflora 'Karl Rosenfeld'
Looking for some spring splendor in the garden? Peony are herbaceous perennials that grow best in Zones 3-8 in full to part sun and prefer a moist, well-drained organic soil. Peony do prefer to be grown with their roots kept cool and protected which can be achieved by planting around them but not to compete with their food and water intake.  

Paeonia lactiflora 'Shirley Temple'
Mildly fragrant blossoms come in a variety of four different shapes including single, semi-double, double and anemone (also known as Imperial or Japanese).  They range in color from red to pink to coral 
to white and yellow in a few tree forms and are grown either as herbaceous shrub form (30-36 inches) or deciduous tree form (3-4 feet). Herbaceous peonies die back in winter, re-growing in spring and tree peony lose their leaves in winter but leave woody stems. One of my personal favorites is the beautiful Peony 'Karl Rosenfeld' shown in the photo above with its magnificent double red-pink blooms and yellow centers that highlight the garden from May to June. Some other popular varieties of peony are 'Sarah Bernhardt' (light pink double flowers),  ‘Shirley Temple’ (white flowers), ‘Red Charm’ (double red flowers) and ‘Festiva Maxima’ (double white flowers).
Paeonia lactiflora Largo
Peony do not like to be moved once established and do best when planted in fall or early spring.  They are sold as either a potted plant or bare root. If you decide to divide your peony dig the tuber up in mid fall. Cut the tuber into several sections making sure that each part has an “eye” as this is where the new plant reproduces. Plant the tubers with the eye facing upwards covered by 2-3 inches of soil. If you do have to move or divide your peony perform this chore with care. 

Paeonia lactiflora 'Red Charm'

After blooming the dark green foliage of these plants remains attractive in the garden through-out fall. Once the foliage starts to die back, peony should be cut to just above the ground to protect from disease. Peony do need a cool dormant period to survive but to protect the roots provide a covering of mulch or leaves during winter. In warmer climates it may be advisable to dig up and store the tubers in a cool spot and re-plant them in spring.

Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa

Shelter your peony from strong winds and add organic material to their planting hole. If the soil is heavy with clay or sandy, enrich it with compost.  Some peony have very strong stems but the large flowers can sometimes get top heavy. If so support the branches with a garden stake and loosely tie with string to support the plant. Most tree peony tend to be more structurally sound and need to be staked less often or not at all.

Paeonia Buckeye Belle
The question is often asked as to why ants are seen crawling on the peony buds. They are actually serving a purpose by eating nectar and attacking bud-eating pests and also helping your peony to bloom.

With proper care peony flowers can live for up to a hundred years. The blooming period for peony ranges from mid spring to mid summer and there are over 500 varieties of peony flower.  If you are looking for a beautiful spring addition for your garden then Peony is the plant for you. I for one look forward to  enjoying the elegance and beauty of this perennial in my own gardens year after year.

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2011/Updated 2014 All Rights Reserved.


  1. Hi there,
    I'm your newest follower and a northeastern Gardner too! We garden and live in the South Boston area... I like your blog and will return often.
    Here is a link to many of my garden posts... Stop in for a visit sometime!

    Waiting for spring~
    Deborah Jean

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! We are a little too warm in Texas for peonies to be entirely happy here, but I do know a few gardeners who grow them here. I think Sarah Bernhardt is one that does all right here. Some people put ice on them in the winter here to simulate a colder climate. Too much trouble for me. I grew up in Wisconsin, and my mom always had beautiful pink peonies.

  3. Beautiful! I always like seeing them around here. They look lovely all blooming

  4. Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog as well! I love looking out my window in spring and seeing the Sarah Bernhardts. It reminds me of an old fashioned victorian style cottage garden (like mom used to have). I am sure there are some beautiful plants for the warmer climate that we cannot grow here. Thanks for sharing! Enjoy~Happy Gardening :)

  5. I love Peonies! I have Festiva Maxima and just love it. It's gotten quite big, but I'm afraid to mess with it and divide it for fear I'll end up killing it. I can't wait til Peonies are blooming.

  6. Lovely flower. But isn't that Hellebore?

  7. Catherine-They are beautiful-aren't they. I am also looking forward to spring to see them in bloom.

    Wandering Jew Plant-Interesting that you should mention that the peony look like hellebores. I checked out some photos of pink hellebores and they do have similarities to the Paeonia lactiflora Largo. Maybe I need to look into getting some!

    Thanks for your comments and happy gardening!


Thank you for visiting. I love reading your comments and knowing you have been here, and will try to reciprocate on your blog. If you have any questions I will try my very best to answer them. As always...HAPPY GARDENING!