Heirloom Peonies

From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
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All bulbs for fall 2019 are SOLD OUT. Thanks for a great season!

Order these fall-planted bulbs NOW for delivery this OCTOBER.

‘Philippe Rivoire’

WHY GROW PEONIES? They’re old-fashioned, easy to grow, offer armloads of flowers, and can live a century or more.

PEONY HISTORY — As Alice Coats wrote, “The long roots of the peony strike deep into the past.” Learn more.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS — Give them full sun and a little patience as they settle in and peonies will reward you for decades. Learn more.

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ADOLPHE ROUSSEAU, 1890Rarest & Web-Only

New! “Loaded with flowers” is a phrase you’ll often see in descriptions of this lush Victorian beauty. Its dark, garnet-red flowers are highlighted by a satiny gloss and a scattering of golden stamens. By Mechin and Dessert (breeders of ‘Mons. Martin Cahuzac’), strong stems, 38-42”, early-mid, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Oregon. Chart and care.

Almost gone! Limit 3.

FRANCES WILLARD, 1907Rarest & It’s Back!

Although rarely offered today, this is one of the best of the Brand family’s many great peonies. Experts throughout the 1900s praised its “perfectly formed” flower (Bonnewitz), its “very floriferous” habit (Boyd), and the “pearliness of its delicate cream-and-blush coloring” (Harding). Its name honors the Chicago reformer who urged women to “Do everything.” Lightly fragrant, strong stems, 30-34”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

Limit 10, please.

GAY PAREE, 1933New

“Showy enough to be kicking up her legs at the Folies Bergère,” as Sonia Day writes in The Untamed Garden, this cheery flower combines brilliant rose outer petals with a center of pink and cream that soon matures to snowy white. It’s also fragrant and so strong-standing that it’s won the APS Award of Landscape Merit. By Auten, 32-34”, mid, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Oregon. Chart and care.

Almost gone! Limit 3.

PHILIPPE RIVOIRE, 1911Rarest & It’s Back!

Although fragrant red peonies are hard to find, this rose-scented legend is “positively sweet-smelling” (Harding, 1923). On wiry stems, its satiny, deep crimson flowers are just the right size for gardens and bouquets. Free flowering, 3-5 eye roots, 30-32”, mid-season, zones 3a-8a(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care.

Limit 3, please.

PEONY PARADISEWeb-Only & Sampler

For a lifetime of luxurious beauty, plant our easy heirloom peonies this fall. We’ll send you 3 of our favorite old-fashioned doubles – 1 pink, 1 white, and 1 rose-red, all labeled and superb. Give them a sunny spot and they’ll reward you with abundant blooms for a century or more – and they make great cut flowers! For zones 3a-7b(8bWC) only, please.

For 2, 3, or more of each variety, order additional samplers. Peony care. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

COF-90 1/$50 2/$95 3/$135 4/$170 5/$200 SOLD OUT

AUTEN’S PRIDE, 1933It’s Back!

With its old-rose fragrance and lavender undertones, this ethereal peony is a special treat in bouquets. Maturing from softest pink to white, it was bred by Edward Auten Jr. of Illinois who – of the more than 300 peonies he introduced – rated it one of his top five. Large flowers, stiff stems, 32-34”, late-blooming, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

PE-38 1/$19.50 3/$55.50 5/$87.50 10/$166 25/$390 50/$780 SOLD OUT

FESTIVA MAXIMA, 1851It’s Back!

The most famous peony of all, ‘Festiva Maxima’ has been a standard of excellence since Hovey’s of Boston first offered it in America in 1852. Its big, sparkling white flowers are highlighted by a few dribbles of crimson, its stems are strong, and it blooms reliably even in the South. 3-5 eye roots, 34-36”, early-mid season, zones 3a-8a(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

PE-01 1/$18.50 3/$52.50 5/$83 10/$157 25/$370 50/$740 SOLD OUT

HERMIONE, 1932It’s Back!

One of the most fragrant peonies of all, this hard-to-find beauty by the great Hans Sass of Nebraska is a lovely, soft, apple-blossom pink. Cut when the buds are in the “soft marshmallow” stage — just before they start to open — and your house will be filled with fragrance for a week or more. 3-5 eye roots, 36-38”, mid-late season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care. We offer a rotating selection of peonies. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

PE-26 1/$18 3/$51.50 5/$81 10/$153 25/$360 50/$720 SOLD OUT

MADAME DUCEL, 1880Rarest & It’s Back!

One of our all-time favorite peonies, baby-pink ‘Madame Ducel’ is a couple of inches shorter than most peonies. What really sets it apart, though, is its exquisitely composed flowers, each looking like a scoop of strawberry ice cream set on a tiny pink plate. Grown exclusively for us from stock we rescued from Iowa’s Sherman Nursery which closed in 2012 after 128 years in business. 3-5 eye roots, 28-30”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care. We offer a rotating selection of peonies. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

PE-02 1/$22 3/$62.50 5/$99 10/$187 25/$440 50/$880 SOLD OUT

PHILOMELE, 1861Rarest & Web-Only

It’s back! One of the most fragrant peonies of all, 154-year-old ‘Philomele’ opens its broad pink guard petals to reveal a frothy heart of amber which gradually matures to pink, often with a tuft of broader petals emerging from the center. The transformation is fascinating – and the fragrance is heavenly! By Calot, free-blooming, strong stems, 30-32”, early-mid season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care. We offer a rotating selection of peonies. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, sign up for an email alert.

PE-32 1/$24.50 3/$70 5/$110 10/$208 25/$490 50/$980 SOLD OUT

PEONY HISTORY – “The long roots of the peony strike deep into the past,” Alice Coats writes in Flowers and Their Histories. The Roman Pliny called them the oldest of plants, and they’ve been grown in Asian gardens for thousands of years.

The first peonies brought to America by the colonists were forms of Paeonia officinalis, a European peony with herbal uses that’s often called the “Memorial Day piney.” Chinese forms of P. lactiflora arrived in the early 1800s, causing a hubbub, and before long many new varieties were being introduced by French and then British breeders. Enthusiasm peaked in the early 20th-century when peonies were enormously popular for both garden and cut-flower use. American breeders came to the fore then, and millions of blossoms cut in the “soft marshmallow” stage were shipped to florists across the country.

PEONY ARCHIVES — For customer tips and raves, the stories behind the flowers, links and books, history, news, and more, see our Peony Newsletter Archives.

PEONIES AS CUT FLOWERS — For tips for enjoying longer lasting bouquets without damaging your plants, see our Bulbs as Cut Flowers page.

PEONY PLANTING AND CARE — Peonies are tough, undemanding perennials that can bloom happily for a century or more with little care.

Plant in early fall. Do not delay! Since peonies are planted only 1-2 inches deep, the soil around them will freeze much earlier than it will for bulbs planted 6 inches deep. If they don’t have enough time to establish new feeder roots before the ground freezes, they will struggle and could fail altogether.

Choose a sunny to lightly shaded spot with good air circulation and plenty of room for them to grow. Because they like ample water, they do best in somewhat heavier (clay) soils and away from the roots of trees and shrubs.

Peony roots and eyes (buds) are brittle, so plant carefully. Dig a generous hole and position the rootstock so the eyes face up and are no more than 1-2 inches below the surface of the soil once it’s been filled in and firmed. Shallow is best; deep planting leads to poor or no bloom. Mark the spot with a stake or peony ring to protect it. Water deeply, and maintain even soil moisture until the ground freezes to help the plant develop as many feeder roots as possible its first fall.

To protect these delicate new roots the first winter, apply a winter mulch. After the ground freezes, mound the newly planted area with 2-4 inches of soil or 5-8 inches of a fluffy, non-matting mulch such as straw, cornstalks, peat moss, or evergreen boughs — but not leaves.

In spring, be sure to remove the mulch before top-growth begins, and be careful not to injure new sprouts. Different varieties will emerge at different times, so patience is advised. Scratch a couple of tablespoons of balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 is ideal) into the soil around the plant, outside the ring of stems, as its leaves begin to unfurl. Water throughout spring and till after bloom-time, especially the first year.

Bloom will be meager the first year as the plant pours most of its energy into establishing a strong root system. More blooms will follow the second year, and even more the third. As you cut blooms, leave as much foliage as possible to continue feeding the plant.

Staking – Even the strongest peony stems will bow when their gloriously double flowers are drenched by rain. Most of the time, though, they’ll stand back up if you gently shake the water out immediately afterwards, so most gardeners grow their peonies au naturel. We like to give them more support, though. See our Supporting Peonies page for two options: cheap and easy and the Hildene star.

In the fall when the leaves begin to turn brown, cut the stems to the ground, collect all the foliage, and throw it away instead of composting it. Though peonies are generally healthy and tough, this will help prevent diseases such as botrytis blight and leaf blotch from getting a toehold or carrying over to the next season.

After the first spring, fertilize only sparingly. Peonies generally need little fertilizer and plants that are over-fertilized will not bloom well. If you do fertilize, keep it away from the crown of the plant where there are no feeder roots. Spread it instead 6-18 inches from the crown, work it into the soil, and water well.

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