10 Different Types of Peonies (Pictures & Care Tips)

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by Max - last update on May 14, 2020, 8:42 am
Types of Peonies

Peonies have sustained their popularity as one of the best flowering perennial plants for many centuries, as they produce stunningly luxurious blooms, are low maintenance, and can be grown across a wide range of climates. Peonies are resilient in nature and are rarely affected by pests or disease. They are long-lived plants that will typically reward the gardener for many decades with large and luscious flowers in a variety of colors.

These plants are available in many varieties, which can be categorized into three main types. These are herbaceous peonies, tree peonies, and Itoh peonies, which are also sometimes referred to as intersectional peonies. These are discussed in greater detail below:

Herbaceous Peonies

Herbaceous peonies are long-lived plants that can thrive in the same spot for many decades, sometimes for as long as 50 years. They reliably bloom year after year with luxurious looking flowers in a wide range of colors. They are very low maintenance for flowering plants and are suitable for growing in a wide range of climates, making it easy to see why these peonies are enormously popular among gardeners. They require little moisture once established and are naturally resistant to most pets.

Herbaceous peonies encompass both the Paeonia officinalis species, which are native to Europe and Paeonia lactiflora species, which are sometimes known as Chinese Peonies because they originate from Asia. The stems of these plants will die back to the ground in winter and will re-emerge the following spring. Types of herbaceous peonies include:

1. Peony ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’

Peony ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’

Scientific Name:

Mature Size: Up to 3 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Orange-pink

Special Features: Multiple award winner

This plant features semi-double flowers in a shade of luminous pink, which almost seems to glow. Wide traditional-looking peony flowers gently open up to uncover the yellow stamens, with the luscious petals starting out a gorgeous shade of coral pink, and gradually developing to an apricot color. The flowers appear on strong and sturdy stems and have an irresistible fragrance. This plant is an early season bloomer, with flowers which will individually last for at least seven days. It is a low maintenance flowering plant which has won numerous awards.


2. Peony ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’

Scientific Name: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’

Mature Size: Up to 3 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Fertile, well-draining

Flower Color: Pink

Special Features: Award winner

This peony is a midseason bloomer, producing medium pink flowers from the end of spring to early summer. It is an heirloom variety, which was introduced at the turn of the 1900s. The large fully double flowers have ruffled petals and may need to be staked as the heavy flowers can cause their stems to bend under the weight. They enjoy plenty of sun but should be kept in a sheltered position away from high winds. This plant is an award winner, having received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society for its outstanding qualities.


3. Peony ‘Sword Dance’

Peony ‘Sword Dance’

Scientific Name: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sword Dance’

Mature Size: Up to 3 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Rich, well-draining

Flower Color: Dark pink and yellow

Special Features: Unusual, quirky blooms

This peony produces very unusual, interesting blooms, with large and luscious magenta petals that surround bright yellow ruffled stamens, striped with dark pink. It is a late-season bloomer, and flowers profusely with each bloom lasting around a week. The plant itself is a very vigorous grower and forms bushy mounds of deep green foliage, which develop into autumnal colors in fall. Unlike many herbaceous peonies, this variety is wind resistant, and the flowers will not become damaged in strong wind, therefore they do not need to be positioned in a sheltered spot like most others. This peony is very popular among butterflies and other pollinators.


4. Peony ‘Elsa Sass’

Scientific Name: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Elsa Sass’

Mature Size: Up to 3 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Light: Full sun to partial sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Rich, fertile, well-draining

Flower Color: White

Special Features: Large flowers

This compact plant features stunning pure white flowers with densely packed rounded petals that are similar in looks to a large rose. The blooms have a subtle scent, and flower in abundance from late spring to early summer. Each flower stays in bloom for a little over a week, and if you prune the plant to make cut flowers, these will also last a similar length of time in a vase. The foliage of this plant is also very attractive, in deep green color with a glossy finish. The foliage remains green for much of the year, developing to orange or red in the fall.

Tree Peonies

Tree peonies are botanically known as Paeonia suffruticosa. They are shrubs that are native to China and Tibet, made up of woody stems that produce peony flowers during April and May. These plants are commonly utilized as hedging or grown against the backdrop of walls and fences. They grow up to seven feet tall, with a spread of around five feet, though most typically top out at around five feet in height. They also make beautiful specimen plants. Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies do not die back to the ground in winter, and will not need to be pruned.

Though these plants can take many years to establish themselves, they are very long-lived and will continue to bloom for many years. They need deep soil to establish good root systems and can be very difficult to transplant because of this. They resent being moved, and ideally should be kept in one place for their whole life. They produce very large flowers, which typically measure between six and ten inches across. The plants have a steady growth habit, usually growing by around six inches each year. In areas below USDA hardiness zone 5, tree peonies may need winter protection, such as mulch around their base to insulate their roots and protect them from freezing.

These plants are predominantly pest-free, and require very little maintenance, making them easy to care for and a joy to own. (Missouri Botanical Garden). There are many cultivars of tree peonies. Some types are:

5. Peony ‘Bird of Rimpo’

Peony ‘Bird of Rimpo’

Credit to David J. Stang

Scientific Name: Paeonia × suffruticosa ‘Bird of Rimpo’

Mature Size: Up to 4 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, deep

Flower Color: Deep pink and yellow

Special Features: Large flowers

This tree peony grows to around four feet in height, and should be planted in a position where it gets at least four hours of sun a day, but is sheltered from drying winds. The plant produces large cup-shaped flowers in spring and early summer, in a dark magenta pink with golden yellow stamens and anthers. The semi-double flowers are very large, measuring up to ten inches across, and have a fragrant, spicy scent. The foliage of this peony tree is medium green for most of the year and drops from the tree in winter (Royal Horticultural Society).


6. Peony ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’

Peony ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’

Scientific Name: Paeonia × lemoinei 'Souvenir de Maxime Cornu'

Mature Size: Up to 7 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Deep, well-draining

Flower Color: Yellow, orange, pink

Special Features: Showy flowers

This deciduous shrub has an upright branching habit that can reach up to seven feet in height. Branches are sparse and covered with green, deeply lobed leaves. The plant blooms in spring and early summer with very large cup-shaped fragrant flowers. The double flowers have ruffled petals, which start out a pale lemon yellow color, developing to pastel orange tinged with pink. This tree peony also goes by the name of Paeonia 'Kinkaku'.

Itoh Peonies

Itoh peonies are hybrids that are made from crossing herbaceous peonies with tree peonies. The result is a plant which has the perennial habit of herbaceous peonies, and the large flowers and robust stems of a tree peony. This hybrid was thought to be unachievable for many years until the Japanese horticulturist Toichi Itoh discovered how to hybridize the two types of peony plants in 1948.

These types of peonies are named after Itoh and have become popular across the world. These plants die back to the ground in winter and return the following spring. They feature large and showy flowers, but due to their short height and sturdy stems, they do not require staking. Some types of Itoh peonies are:

7. Peony ‘Bartzella’

Peony ‘Bartzella’

Scientific Name: Paeonia ‘Bartzella’

Mature Size: Up to 2 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining, fertile

Flower Color: Yellow

Special Features: Citrus scented flowers

This Itoh peony produces lemon yellow ruffled flowers, which measure between six and eight inches across. They have a subtle flash of pink near the center of the flower, around the yellow stamens. One of the best attributes of this flower is its amazing citrus scent. It has a long blooming period for a peony, with flowers that are produced in sequence throughout May and June, giving the plant a flowering season, which lasts for three or four weeks. It is a reliable bloomer, with around 30 flowers being produced in the first year of life, and this number then doubles when the plant matures.


8. Peony ‘Cora Louise’

Peony ‘Cora Louise’

Scientific Name: Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’

Mature Size: Up to 2 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Fertile, well-draining

Flower Color: Purple, yellow, white

Special Features: Unusual colored flowers for a peony

This plant blooms in late spring to early summer, producing pure white flowers that measure between eight and ten inches across. The flowers open into semi-double blooms, and petals develop into a soft lavender color, which is deep purple at the base. The stamens are golden yellow, which contrasts well against the purple flowers. The color of the flowers on this plant is one of its most attractive features, as this is a rare flower color among other peonies.


9. Peony ‘Garden Treasure’

Peony ‘Garden Treasure’

Scientific Name: Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’

Mature Size: Up to 2 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, fertile

Flower Color: Yellow, red

Special Features: Multiple award winner

This plant features stunning yellow flowers that are scented like lemons. Each flower can have as many as 50 petals, which have gently ruffled edges and spread out to form a cup shape. The flowers, though they are predominantly yellow, have a flash of red in their middle. This peony plant flowers in late spring or early summer, with blooms that last around two weeks in warm weather, or four weeks in cooler climates. It flowers in abundance, with mature plants typically producing over 50 blooms at a time.


10. Peony ‘Julia Rose’

Peony ‘Julia Rose’

Scientific Name: Paeonia ‘Julia Rose’

Mature Size: Up to 3 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining, rich

Flower Color: Pink, yellow, orange, purple

Special Features: Color-changing flowers

This Itoh peony produces stunning flowers that change color over time. The buds arrive in red, which open to reveal orange flowers, which develop to a soft apricot color with purple tinges at the edge. These then fade to a pale yellow. As the flowers develop at different paces, the plant can have blooms in three different colors all at the same time. They are smaller than many other Itoh peony flowers, though still a respectable size at between four and six inches across. The flowers have a spicy fragrance and are attractive to bees and butterflies.

10 Different Types of Peonies (Pictures & Care Tips)

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