Peonies (Paeonia) are long-lived plants that make pink, white, red, yellow and coral blooms. The blossoms may be single or double, depending on the cultivar. A peony’s fragrance varies, but many peonies possess a sweet, clean scent. Pink peonies usually have more fragrance than crimson peonies. Peonies are known as Northern flowers since they endure — and even prefer — harsh winter temperatures. Using careful plant selection, nevertheless, gardeners in milder regions can have peonies in their lawns.


Peonies are native to Asia and Southern Europe and were revered by the ancient Chinese and people in other Asian cultures, as per a Whatcom County Extension informative article on the Washington State University website. In reality, gold peonies, and in particular, gold tree peonies, were believed the distinctive real estate of China’s emperor. Other people having the plants could be put to death. Romans transported the plants to England, where they flourished in the moist climate. Peonies were used in ancient times to treat a variety of conditions, which range from childbirth pains to seizures and headaches. They had been thought to protect against curses and demonic possession, which might explain why they frequently were used to line a walkway leading to a front door. Peonies were widely grown during the Victorian period and are frequently regarded as old-fashioned flowering crops. Their ease of care and blooms make them acceptable plants for the modern landscapes as well.


Peonies are grouped into two main categories: herbaceous, perennial plants (Paeonia officinalis) and also tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa). A third, less common kind of peony, the Itoh hybrid peony, is a cross between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies. The cultivar was developed in 1948 by Japanese hybridist Toichi Itoh. An American grower, Louis Smirnow, patented four varieties in the late 1960s. Herbaceous peonies are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, and also tree peonies are hardy in zones 5 through 9. Itoh peonies are hardy in zones 4 through 9. Peonies need a period of cold weather every single winter to break dormancy and blossom properly. In mild climates, the plants produce lush foliage but few blossoms. Herbaceous peonies need over 400 hours of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit annually while tree peonies need 100 to 300 hours of chill time each year. Gardeners in regions with mild winters should purchase tree peonies, rather than herbaceous varieties, and also the tree peonies must be local plants adapted to mild winters.

Growing Requirements

Both herbaceous and tree peonies need full sun, rich soil and consistent moisture to perform well. Plant herbaceous peonies so their eyes, which can be small, round knobs on the origins, sit 1 inch under the soil. Planting them too intensely delays or prevents flowering. Avoid mulching herbaceous peonies; bet or cage them if they flop over. Tree peonies benefit from deep planting. Plant them 2 to 3 inches deeper than they seated in the nursery.

Cut Flowers

Peonies make lavish, fragrant floral displays. Cut the blossoms early in the morning when they’re just opening, and place them in cool water. Mix peonies along with other old-fashioned blooms, including lilacs, snowball bush, lilies, roses, delphiniums and foxglove. Extend the life span of the floral display by adding a commercial preservative to the water, or even create your own preservative by combining 1 part routine lemon-lime honey using 3 parts water, the University of California Santa Clara County Master Gardeners website suggests.

See related