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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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Auten’s Pride peony     1933
It’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.

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Duchesse de Nemours peony     1856
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Grown and painted by Monet, this deliciously fragrant peony has been a favorite for over 150 years. Its abundant flowers open as “creamy chalices” (Harding, 1917) lit by a golden glow and mature into perfect white cumulus clouds. RHS AGM, strong stems, 3-5 eye roots, 34-38”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), from Iowa. Chart and care.

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Edulis Superba peony     1824
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This richly fragrant, deep pink relic is one of the oldest peonies of all, and yet, writes expert Martin Page, it’s “still one of the best.” Introduced in France soon after the first lactiflora peonies arrived from China, it has been cherished ever since (even in the South) for its “good form, strong color, and delightful fragrance” (Boyd, 1928). 36-38”, early-mid, zones 3a-8a(9aWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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James R. Mann peony     1920
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The distinctively striped buds of this rare peony ramp up the anticipation for its big, rosy pink flowers. Introduced during the Arts and Crafts era, it has a romantically “loose and fluffy” form (Boyd, 1928) that may remind you of roses or lotus blossoms. Its name honors an Illinois congressman who championed women’s rights – and loved peonies. 34-36”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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Minuet peony     1931
Rarest & It’s Back!

Although not as famous as its sister ‘Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt’, this rarely offered beauty is just as wonderful. It’s taller than most peonies – perfect for a featured spot or the back of your perennial border – with strong stems and fragrant, rose-shaped flowers of a dreamy apple-blossom pink. Minneapolis-bred by A.B. Franklin, 38-42”, late mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Chart and care.

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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.

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Magnificent, indeed! In the early 1900s when the Brands were creating the world’s finest red peonies, they described this dark jewel as one of their “very best,” with flowers “like a rose,” “wonderfully profuse,” and “the nearest blue of any red peony.” A century later, its robust growth and rosy-purple undertones make it still a very special peony. 34-38”, late, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Last offered in 2022. We are hopeful we will be able to offer it this season but are awaiting word from our grower before putting it back for sale. 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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Henry Sass peony     1948

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. Last offered in 2022. We are hopeful we will be able to offer it this season but are awaiting word from our grower before putting it back for sale. 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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Long known as the darkest peony of all, this French icon is a wine-dark maroon that looks even darker amid its pastel cousins. Its satiny petals have a shimmer of black, and the sometimes unruly form of its flowers only adds to its darkly romantic je ne sais quoi. Strong stems, 32-34”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), 3-5 eyes, from Iowa. Last offered in 2018. We are hopeful we will be able to offer it this season but are awaiting word from our grower before putting it back for sale. 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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The rich fragrance and rose-like form of this APS Gold Medal winner make it distinct in the garden and terrific in bouquets. Opening “like a blush-pink waterlily” (Martin Page), it matures into a graceful, cupped flower of pale, silvery pink. Free-flowering, vigorous, 3-5 eye roots, 30-34”, mid-season, zones 3a-7b(8bWC), from Iowa. Last offered in 2019. We are hopeful we will be able to offer it this season but are awaiting word from our grower before putting it back for sale. 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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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. Last offered in 2020. We are hopeful we will be able to offer it this season but are awaiting word from our grower before putting it back for sale. If you’d like to be notified when it’s back in stock, click here to sign up for an email alert.

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.