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‘Hermione’, 1932

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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Peony Paradise sampler   
Web-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.

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Gay Paree peony    1933
It’s Back!

“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.

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Henry Sass peony    1948
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This “truly magnificent” peony with its “large, pure white” flowers of “perfect form” (to quote the Wild catalog of 1955) was introduced by the legendary Hans Sass of Nebraska – breeder of scores of award-winning iris, daylilies, lilacs, and peonies – and named for his flower-loving nephew and heir. Lightly fragrant, strong stems, 32-36”, late mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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Nick Shaylor peony    1931
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“The near perfect peony,” write our friends Carol Adelman and David Michener in Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden, and our Iowa grower agrees, calling it “truly one of the best!” Its large, lush flowers open a soft blush pink that – unless it’s cloudy or you pick them to enjoy indoors – quickly matures to creamy white. 34-36”, mid-late season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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Sword Dance peony    1933
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The APS Award of Garden Merit celebrates peonies that are great garden plants, like this sturdy Japanese-style beauty by Midwesterner Edward Auten Jr. With deep red petals cupping a brilliant, chrysanthemum-like ball of red-and-gold staminodes, it’s vigorous, free-blooming, and stands up to rain and high heat with aplomb. 36” mid-late, zones 3a-8a(9aWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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Victoire de la Marne peony    1915
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European florists love this peony, thanks to its romantic, cottage-garden look of its relaxed form and bright golden anthers. It’s bee-friendly, too, and hardy enough to be grown commercially in zone-2a Alaska! Bred by the great Auguste Dessert, it’s named in honor of the WWI victory that saved Paris – and his family’s nursery – from destruction. 32-34”, mid, zones 2a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Oregon. Chart and care.

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Monsieur Jules Elie peony    1888
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One of only ten lactifloras to win the RHS Award of Garden Merit, this luxurious Victorian is one of the world’s most popular peonies. Even in the South, says guru Felder Rushing, its huge, fragrant blooms are “absolutely dependable.” 3-5 eye roots, 30” mid-season, zones 3a-8a(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care. We hope to have Monsieur Jules Elie back for sale this summer after confirmation from our grower. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, click here to sign up for an email alert.

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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.