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Charlie Nardozzi

Professional Gardening Expert

Best Peonies & Best Peony Flowers

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In China, peonies are known as the “King of the Flowers” for good reason. The colorful blooms can reach 10 inches in diameter, flowering in early summer to herald the upcoming summer season. The plants are no slouch either. Shrubs grow from a diminutive one-foot tall to up to huge six feet tall depending on the selection. Peony flowers come in a variety of forms and in nearly every color of the rainbow except blue. Not only are the flowers alluring, the dark green summer foliage provides a great backdrop to other blooming perennials and turns a vivid red in fall. Once established, this long-lived perennial (some plants can live 50 to 100 years) can thrive in your garden with little care.

Peonies are generally grouped into two basic types: herbaceous and tree. Herbaceous, or garden peonies (Paeonia hybrids), grow 1 to 4 feet tall (depending on the variety) and are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. In areas with freezing winter temperatures, the foliage dies back to the ground each winter, but the crown and roots survive. In mild climates plants can stay green year-round. Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) have woody stems that survive the winter, and can grow to 6 feet tall. They look more like a landscape shrub than an actual tree. They are hardy to zone 3, however they may need winter protection in the coldest climates. Tree peonies also can withstand some heat. In fact, they grow better in warmer climates than herbaceous peonies. So, if you’re trying to grow peonies in a zone 9 or warmer garden, try the tree types.

There are newer intersectional (Itoh hybrid) peonies that are a cross between the garden and tree peonies. Itoh hybrids combine the large, unusually colored flowers and attractive foliage of the tree peony with the compact plant and foliage of the herbaceous peony.

Peony flowers are grouped according to their shape. Single, semi-double, anemone or Japanese, and double flower forms are the most common. Although peonies only bloom for 1 to 2 weeks in early summer, by planting early-, mid-, and late-season varieties, you can extend the bloom time to four to six weeks. They grow best in well-drained, fertile soil. Grow peonies in full sun in the North and part shade in the South.

Best of the Best:

All the peonies listed below are herbaceous, unless otherwise noted. All of these are American Peony Society award winning herbaceous and tree varieties that bloom from early to late and have different shaped and colored flowers. Many are fragrant and good for cutting.

Find the best peonies with one click. We suggest the best peony flowers that offer big colorful blooms that signal summer's arrival with the best peonies flowers in the garden.

Best Peonies by Charlie Nardozzi

The Best You Can Get

  • Do Tell

    Charlie says: This Japanese, anemone-type variety has a nice contrast of seashell pink outer petals with the rose, white, and pink colored flower center. ‘Do Tell’ grows well under a wide range of climatic conditions in the North and South. The six-inch diameter blossoms are fragrant.

    • Japanese/anemone type
    • Soft, shell pink flowers
    • Midseason blooms
    • 32 inches tall
  • Garden Treasure

    Charlie says: This award winning Itoh hybrid is pricey (over $100/plant), but worth the investment. The large (seven to eight inches in diameter), semi-double, gold flowers have striking pink and scarlet centers. The flowers are born on sturdy stems and have a lemony fragrance. They bloom for a longer period of time than herbaceous peonies. The vigorous plant has a shrub-like nature and is great as a landscape plant.

    • Intersectional hybrid (cross between an herbaceous and tree peony)
    • Mid to late season blooms
    • Semi-double, yellow gold flowers
    • 36-inches tall
  • High Noon

    Charlie says: Tree peonies grow four to five feet tall. This selection features bright lemon yellow, buttercup shaped, semi-double, ruffled blossoms with a good fragrance. Each flower is richly dabbed with streaks of raspberry color. May repeat bloom in fall.

    • Tree type
    • Early to midseason blooms
    • Semi-double, lemon yellow flowers
  • Pink Hawaiian Coral

    Charlie says: Semi double, coral pink, fragrant blooms have cupped and rounded outer petals with yellow centers. The mounded shrub has attractive foliage and strong stems making them good for cutting.

    • Semi-double coral with yellow centers
    • Fragrant rose-shaped flowers
    • Early to midseason blooms
    • 34 to 36 inches tall
  • Red Charm

    Charlie says: Double, fragrant, dark red flowers are so packed with petals in the center of the flower that this type is often called a “bomb” flower. A vivid flower in the garden, the strong stems hold the long lasting blooms erect. Good as a cut flower, too.

    • Double red, “bomb” type flowers
    • Early season blooms
    • 34 to 36 inches tall

You will be happy with any of these

  • America

    Charlie says: Large sized, brilliant scarlet colored flowers have bright golden centers. This single, mildly fragrant flower shines in its simplicity and vividness. The bush is smaller than most other herbaceous peonies.

    • Single red flowers
    • Early season blooms
    • 28 inches tall
  • Fern Leaf

    Charlie says: This unusual variety features finely cut, fern-like leaves on a small shrub. The foliage makes this an interesting plant in a border or rock garden, even after the flowers fade. The small (three to four inches in diameter), double red flowers provide a striking contrast to the ornamental foliage. There are other selections of fern leaf peonies that have single flowers in different colors as well.

    • Paeonia tenuifolia species
    • Double, red flowers
    • Very early season blooms
    • 12 to 18 inches tall
  • Festiva Maxima

    Charlie says: This old fashioned variety is still popular for good reason. The large (8-inch diameter), fragrant, fluffy, double white flowers are splashed with carmine colors. This vigorous shrub has sturdy stems making it a good cut flower.

    • Double, white flowers splashed with red
    • Early to mid season blooms
    • 36 inches tall
  • Kamata Nishiki

    Charlie says: This four to five foot tall tree peony has stunning semi-double, lavender blue, ruffled, satin-like flowers with lighter colors on the petal’s edge. The blue petals contrast nicely with the bright orange flower centers.

    • Tree type
    • Lavender blue flowers
    • Early to midseason
  • Sarah Bernhardt

    Charlie says: This popular, widely available, old fashioned, variety has fragrant, large (eight inches in diameter), double pink flowers with carmine colored flecks on the petals. The strong stems make this a good cutting variety.

    • Double, rose flowers
    • Late season blooms
    • 36 inches tall

Related Articles

We recommend the best peonies that are herbaceous and are award-winning varieties. These best peony flowers bloom early to late with different shapes and colors of flowers for a variety in your garden. Always the best price, these best flowering plants will help you create the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood.