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.