Peonies are a beautiful species of single or double flowers native to Asia, western North America, and southern Europe.
They have become a popular cut and bouquet flower because of their papery-appearance and bright color selections.
They look delicate and regal at the same time sprucing up gardens from spring to summer.
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If you are curious about everything peonies, specifically the types of peonies that you could grow or buy, we will cover all the most relevant information about this flower and describe the types of peonies available.
Facts about peony
Before we tackle the different types of peonies, it would be good to build up the fascination with these facts about the peony.
- The white peony continues to be a popular Chinese herbal medicine used particularly in treating convulsions.
- Depending on the variety, peonies can grow very large with some reaching up to 10cm in flower diameter.
- The peony is the state flower of Indiana and is considered as the floral symbol of China.
- Peonies represent 12th year wedding anniversaries.
- Potassium concentrates are used as fertilizers for peonies because potassium makes them disease-resistant.
- They have one of the widest color selections as they have species in all hues except blue.
- The plant could survive for a hundred years and are particularly attractive to ants.
What type of peonies are there?
There are three major types of peonies: tree peonies, herbaceous peonies, and itoh or intersectional peonies. One of their most stark differences is their climate adaptation.
For one, herbaceous peonies will thrive in colder climates while tree peonies cannot withstand too much cold. Tree peonies go dormant during cold seasons while herbaceous peonies won’t.
Intersectional or Itoh peonies, on the other hand, are more hardy and drought-tolerant. Itoh peonies will die back during winter though.
How many different colors of peonies are there?
Peonies surprisingly have a wide range of color selection. There are 15 colors of peonies available and they are:
- Red (Rubra Plena, Karl Rosenfeld and Lady in Red)
- White (Immaculate and Festiva Maxima)
- Pink (Paula Fay, Benjamin Franklin, and the Delicate Rose)
- Blush (the Shirley Temple)
- Coral (Coral Sunset and the Coral Charm)
- Yellow (Bartzella and Huang Hua Kai)
- Purple (Gui Fu)
- Lavender (Kirinmaru)
- Orange (Copper Kettle)
- Bicolor (Sorbet)
Peony meaning and symbolism
Peonies are highly symbolic flowers in various cultures and traditions. Its name for one is derived from the word Paonia named after Paeon, the Greek god of medicine. This is because then and now, peonies have been used for their medicinal properties especially in treating migraine and asthma.
These flowers also symbolically represent depending on color. Pink peonies for one are considered as 12th wedding anniversary flowers while white peonies are associated with childbirth and femininity.
In Europe, it is also called the imperial flower after it was introduced by Roman legions in England in 1200.
During the Victorian era, peonies symbolized a love that is won and also purity and chastity. It is in the Victorians who initiated the use of peonies at weddings.
Among Serbs, peonies are significant lore and magic flowers as they believe that peonies are potent ingredients in love magic. It is also used as security pins for newborn children because Serbs believe that peony roots will protect them from evil.
In general symbolism, peonies represent the honor, romance, beauty, purity, and also abundance.
What are tree peonies?
Tree peonies could grow to up to 7ft tall and are woody shrubs native to China. They have striking foliage with deep green colors during spring and summer and a combination of purple and bronze during fall.
They produce large flowers (7-10cm across). As soon as the roots establish, tree peonies would not tolerate frequent moving.
How many varieties of Tree Peonies are there?
There are at least 20 tree peony varieties out there. They are known for their sturdy stems, growing best in full sun, and an ample amount of moisture. Below are the various tree peony varieties.
1. Tree Peony ‘Age of Gold’
It is considered as one of the original varieties of American peonies. It is also called Saunders’ peony and it features large, white with a flush of yellow, red stamen base and yellow anthers.
2. Tree Peony ‘Bird of Rimpo’ (Paeonia × suffruticosa ‘Bird of Rimpo’)
It is very dramatic with its large, double bloom, ruby-red flowers. It also has deep purple edges and white/yellow anthers. When the hit lights, the petals will have a glassy look.
3. Tree Peony ‘Black Pirate’
This tree peony is a profuse bloomer with striking large, dark burgundy flowers in contrast to rich, apple green foliage. It also features fine, yellow stamens at the center and one of the most favorite spring peonies.
4. Tree Peony ‘Captain’s Concubine’
At first glance, it looks like tattered butterfly wings. It is a cousin to Companion of Serenity since they have the same breeder. It sports large, creamy white flowers with deep pink towards the center.
5. Tree Peony ‘Chinese Dragon’ (Paeonia suffruticosa)
It is known for its fine, knit growing habit, lacy, bronze leaves, and large, pink flowers. It also features large, curved guard petals and long, sunny yellow anthers.
6. Tree Peony ‘Companion of Serenity’
It refers to a group of tree peonies bred by William Gratwick III. It is an early spring bloomer featuring a single bloom, large, white, luminous flower, pale pink streaks, and a red center. It also has flashy yellow-purple anthers.
7. Tree Peony ‘Duchess of Kent’
Although it is a late bloomer, it does not disappoint as it remains striking year-round even after the flowers bloom. It has large, vigorous, pink-red, double bloom flowers complete with red stem and red stalks.
8. Tree Peony ‘Gessekai’ (Paeonia suffruticosa Kingdom of the Moon)
It has one of the most delicate flowers that bloom during spring. It sports single bloom, pure white petals with golden yellow stamens in the center. It is said to glow as dusk approaches.
9. Tree Peony ‘Hanakisoi’ (Floral Rivaly, Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Hanakisoi’)
It is also called the Floral Rivalry. It is known for its large petals with crepe paper texture and appearance. It has a blush color with darker pink hues to its center.
10. Tree Peony ‘Impumon’
It is a showy peony with its very bright double flowers. It has large, crimson red flowers that bloom during mid-spring. It is also called the True Red and is a fresh sight in perennial gardens.
11. Tree Peony ‘Sakura Rashidi’
As the name suggests, this one looks like large cherry blossoms. It features a unique globular flower with wavy, crinkled edges. It has white-colored tips darkening into hues of pink as it reaches the center.
12. Tree Peony ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’
It is a showy large flower with peach color and reddish tips. It has frilled edges and a pale yellow center. They also look like roses and are good company flowers for darker colored ones.
13. Tree Peony ‘Gauguin’
It has one of the most striking color palettes of all tree peonies. It has large, veined petals in bright pink with yellow overlays. It looks like a semi-double, crumpled flower. It was named after the French painter Paul Gaugin by breeder Nassos Daphnis.
14. Tree Peony ‘Pluto’
It is another tree peony bred by Daphnis. This one was named after the Roman god of the underworld because of its dark burgundy color and yellow anthers cushioned on a black base. It becomes luminous when it is hit by light.
15. Tree Peony ‘Reine Elizabeth’
It is actually an old variety of tree peony with large, full-double, ruffled petals in pink colors and tinges of orange. It is typically grown in sheltered locations as it could be delicate.
16. Tree Peony ‘Shimane Sedai’
It definitely looks like a rose but with a globular appearance. Its crepe paper-like petals have a baby pink color with ruffled edges. As it grows more mature, the ruffles will be more prominent and will turn into full-double bloom.
17. Tree Peony ‘Shima Nishiki’
It is an attractive bicolor peony of white and deep pink colors. It is a popular flower cut, semi-double petals, and golden yellow anthers.
18. Tree Peony ‘Showano Hokori’
It is a beautiful tree peony featuring large, deep pink flowers sporting black markings and yellow anthers. Its petals are semi-double and incurved.
19. Tree Peony ‘Thunderbolt’
It is often confused with the Black Pirate because it has the same color of flowers. The defining feature though is that compared to the Black Pirate, it has relatively smaller burgundy flowers and its stems are of a lancing, upright nature.
What are Herbaceous Peonies?
They are very hardy flowers providing spring and summer lush to the garden. They are also often referred to as Chinese peony or common peony. They are annuals, with showy flowers coming in a variety of colors. They are deer-resistant and are generally hardy.
Facts about Herbaceous Peonies
To know more about herbaceous peonies, here are some facts that you should know about them.
- They are the most popular peony cut flowers used in live floral arrangements and bouquets.
- They die back below the ground and produce crimson shoots every spring.
- They are silky flowers coming in pink, blush, and coral colors.
- Herbaceous peonies should be carefully planted but as soon as they are established, you can enjoy their blooms for months.
20. Peony ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’
It has a bulky, globular appearance and island sunrise colors of pale yellow, baby pink, and white, hence, the Hawaiian coral name. It blooms all throughout spring.
21. Peony ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’
It is a large, rose-shaped, full double flower with pale pink edges and deeper pink ruffled petals. It blooms profusely during late spring. Its lacy foliage remains attractive and intact through winter.
22. Peony ‘Sword Dance’
It gets its name from its curly anthers, seemingly dancing in various directions. It has large, magenta flowers and red-purple-yellow anthers. It is a prized peony because it is wind-resistant and has a longer blooming time of at least six weeks.
23. Peony ‘Elsa Sass’
It is delicate and straight out looks like crepe paper. It sports a large, double-flowered, silky, pure white petals. It also has small, yellow stamens but they tend to be hidden because of its ruffled look.
What are Itoh Peonies?
Itoh or intersectional peonies are hybrid peonies. They are called as such because almost all Itoh peonies have a Japanese peony parent.
They get the sturdiness of herbaceous peonies and the enormous and vibrant colors of tree peonies.
They die out during winter and have attractive foliage from summer to fall.
How many varieties of Itoh peonies are there?
There are at least 46 recognized varieties of Itoh peonies out there. The first Itoh peony variety came into existence in 1948 after a thousand attempts at cross-breeding herbaceous and tree peonies. They have a huge color selection and they feature bicolored peonies.
24. Peony ‘Bartzella’
It has a luscious, glowing, lemon yellow color. It is a fast-growing and profusely blooming peony. It has a crepe paper-like appearance and upright semi-double flowers. It is a consistent horticultural award.
25. Peony ‘Cora Louise’
This one sports large, pure white, semi-double flowers with dark red hearts. At its center would be golden yellow anthers and a slightly dark pink base. It is known for its long bloom time from late spring to mid-fall.
26. Peony ‘First Arrival’
As the name implies, it is the earliest Itoh bloomer. It is known to be extremely drought tolerant with sturdy stems and long blooming time. It features medium-sized, delicate, and paper-like white, lavender, and purple flowers.
27. Peony ‘Garden Treasure’
It is one of the most prized and multi-awarded Itoh. It has a large, semi-double, golden-yellow bloom of at least 50 petals and a contrasting red-brown heart. It has sturdy stems and is a known profuse bloomer starting from late spring to early summer. It has a strong lemon scent.
28. Peony ‘Julia Rose’
It is a flashy Itoh with single to semi-double flowers. It has an attractive large bloom that changes colors during bloom time through the years.
The colors start with orange, apricot, or red with creamy yellow edges. It will later on turn to yellow, providing an attractive floral display. It is also notable for its spicy scent.
29. Peony ‘Prairie Charm’
It is a consistent peony awardee known for its longevity, subtle fragrance, and popular garden border and flower cut peony. It sports a semi-double, upright, large, yellow flowers with a red base.
30. Peony ‘Singing in the Rain’
This one is a luminous, almost translucent, large, semi-double flower of apricot and salmon colors. It has curved petals and whimsical, long yellowish-white stamens of green and orange base.
It is a profuse bloomer and its deep green foliage will remain intact and in color even during winter.
Rare peony varieties
With its three major types and wide cultivation, you would be astounded to know that there are a handful of rare peony varieties out there.
They are mostly Itoh peonies and some rare cultivars belong to herbaceous peonies. It should also be noted that rare peonies also refer to varieties that have been over-bred that the parent peony has been lost in between breeding.
If you are considering collecting or growing rare peony varieties, here are some names that you should know about.
- Cora Louise
- Angela Jo
- Bernice Carr
- Cardinal’s Robe
- Dark Promise
- Edna’s Wish
- Elise McKenna
- Faithful Dream
- Frances Mains
- Francois Ortegat
- Gordon E. Simonson
- John Howard Wigell
- Kathy’s Touch
- Kayleigh Ann
- Magic Moonbeam
- New Dimension
- Sonoma Welcome
Bloom Types for Peonies
Imperial peonies are popular single peonies. They have rows of petals made of at least five guard petals surrounding the pollen.
They often bloom into full-doubles but in themselves, they already flash artistic blooms. They have large petals and prominent stamens. They have more than one row of petals and visible anthers while in bloom.
These peonies have a doubling tendency above the single rows of petals. They have yellow anthers carrying pollen. They are not really native to Japan but the Japanese love them and they associate them with high social class.
They look like Japanese peonies minus the anthers. They have stamens that look like incurved petals. Some appear as side-blooms.
Aside from having multiple rows of petals, another row of petals cover its crown. They have no visible stamens and anthers. They have prominent guard petals though, and this gives them that globular look.
The bomb peony
They have a more pronounced globular look with shorter guard petals. No pollens and anthers are visible and in time, they look more sculptured with a beautiful, bulky ball look. An example of the bomb peony is the Raspberry Sundae.
Peonies are easy to care for flowers requiring minimum to low care pointers. Nonetheless, here are some peony care pointers that you should know about.
Digging and dividing
Unlike most perennials, peonies can thrive with neglect. You do not have to dig and divide them annually for better and greater blooms for the next bloom time.
Since peonies love full sun but also require moisture, they need regular and thorough watering with at least an inch once a week.
To preserve moisture, an organic mulch must be applied during spring but should be removed before winter. A 5-10cm mulch is perfect for peonies.
This one is only for herbaceous and Itoh peonies. Some cultivars of these peonies have an arching tendency requiring staking.
This one is an end of season care requirement. This is done during the fall to prevent overwintering. This also prohibits the niching of pests and the emergence of common peony diseases.
What is the difference between peonies and tree peonies?
By peonies, we refer to herbaceous and Itoh peonies.
The main difference between peonies and tree peonies is that herbaceous and Itoh peonies have rounded leaves produced in mounds during spring and summer and change color as it dies back during fall while tree peonies just shed leaves during this time.
On the other hand, tree peonies have woody stems that will remain sturdy year-round while other peonies need their stems to be cut annually.
Which peony blooms the longest?
Herbaceous peonies bloom the longest. On average, they bloom for 3-4 weeks. Other cultivars bloom all spring until mid-summer. While enormous, the flowers of tree peonies only bloom for 10 days at most.
What are the most fragrant peonies?
One interesting thing about peonies is that their level of fragrance depends on their color. Used in the perfume industry, it is important to know which peonies are fragrant.
Pink and white peonies are the most fragrant peonies while red peonies, among others, do not have any scent. Double (semi and full) are also very fragrant peonies.
Some of the most fragrant peonies are:
- Henry Bockstoce
- Duchesse De Nemours
- Cora Stubbs
There are many moderately scented peonies but the most notable are:
- Burma Ruby
- Garden Treasure
- Pink Derby
- Pink Hawaiian Coral
- Honey Gold
- Mary Mayshine
Peonies are more than just beautiful flowers. Aside from being wedding and flower arrangement staples, they also have a rich botanical background, historical and symbolic significance, and a whole peony universe under its belt with its three major types.
Having been around for hundreds of years, peonies have established themselves as one of the most loved garden flowers in the world.
With everything that we have covered here, especially the types of peonies we have described, it is understandable why peonies have achieved this level of regard.