Peony Flowers and Plants
What we call Peony roses or Peonies are indeed wonderful flowering plants. In the world of flowers, few can rival their timeless elegance, rich symbolism, and ease of care. Their lush blooms and delicate fragrance make them among the most cherished flowers in the gardening world. If you’re considering adding a touch of romance and charm to your garden, peonies should be at the top of your list.
Peonies have deeply lobed leaves and large, often fragrant flowers in an array of colours, from pristine whites and soft pinks to rich reds and bold corals, making them a versatile choice for any garden palette. They pair beautifully with various companions like irises, roses, and salvia. Their lush foliage provides an attractive backdrop for other perennials, ensuring a harmonious and visually pleasing garden.
There are three main types of peonies. Tree types are like shrubs. They have a woody stem that stays through the winter and beautiful blossoms. Herbaceous types die right back to the ground and are the most common, coming in various colours and shapes. These are grouped into five types: single (or Chinese Peony), semi-double, double, Japanese Peony, and anemone. The intersectional types (ITOH), are a hybrid of the two, combining their best qualities.
Added to this are what are called ‘American lutea’ types and Japanese and Chinese types.
Species include: anomala, delavayi, lactiflora, lutea, mascula, suffruticosa and tenuifolia, however it is the hybrids that we will usually see for sale. The peony or paeony (Paeonia) is a deciduous plant native to Asia, Europe and North America.
In Australia, the best time for planting peonies is during autumn, while the soil is still warm, allowing the roots to establish before winter. The peony plants, however, will appear to be in a dormant state. October to November is the best flowering season to see Peonies in full bloom.
However, different varieties flower early, mid-season and late and of course, warmer and cooler climates can influence flowering time. So, you can extend the flowering season by carefully selecting the right types. Late-season varieties can sometimes be problematical, especially in warmer areas (Sydney and Brisbane), where they may not flower in hot years.
It’s worth noting that different peony varieties have varying flowering times, categorized as early, mid-season, or late bloomers. Additionally, cooler or warmer climate plays a role in influencing when peonies will flower. Careful selection of the right varieties is essential to extend the peony flowering season. Late-season varieties in warmer regions like Sydney and Brisbane can sometimes pose challenges, as they may not flower in exceptionally hot years.
Peonies may take a year or two to establish and produce abundant blooms, but your patience will be rewarded with their breathtaking beauty and delightful fragrance.
How to Grow Peonies
An excellent feature in the garden border, a cottage garden planting or in a pot or container as a feature plant. Don’t hesitate to cut peonies for beautiful, fragrant bouquets. To ensure longevity, cut the flowers when they’re in bud form and just starting to open.
- Location: They prefer a sunny area in cooler climates or partially shaded in warmer climates in your garden. Protection from hot winds is also required. Peonies need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily to bloom abundantly.
- Soil Preparation: Peonies prefer well-drained, fertile soil with an ideal pH of around 7.0-7.5 (we like 8). Improve the soil by incorporating organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure.
- Planting Depth: Plant your peonies with the eyes (buds) 1-2 inches below the soil surface. Planting too deep can hinder flowering.
- Spacing: Space herbaceous peonies 1m apart and tree peonies 1.5m apart to allow for their mature size. Herbaceous peonies will grow 0.5-1.5m tall, but the taller woody variety can reach up to 3m.
- Watering: Peonies need regular watering, especially during summer. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Tree peonies do not like wet feet. In fact, once they are established they are reasonably drought tolerant. Many tree peonies are killed by overwatering.
- Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around your peonies to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and maintain an even soil temperature.
- Support: As peonies produce large, heavy blooms, it’s wise to provide support with stakes or hoops to prevent the plants from bending under the weight.
- Fertilizing: Fertilize your peonies in the spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to encourage healthy growth and flowering.
- Deadheading: Remove spent flowers to encourage more blooms and prevent seed production after your peonies bloom.
- Winter Care: Cut back the herbaceous peony stems to about 2 inches from the ground in late autumn. Tree peonies require less pruning, usually only to remove dead or damaged branches.
Tree Peonies such as white flowering ‘Hakugan’ (pictured right) are spectacular flowering garden plants. Their botanical name is Paeonia suffruticosa, and you’ll find an extensive selection of cultivars to choose from. Tree Peony ‘Kamata-nishiki‘ is a fantastic purple flowering cultivar while Paeonia ‘Shimanishiki‘ has a red and white flower. Planting them in dappled shade, approximately 3 meters from the base of a large tree, works well.
One standout among Japanese tree peonies is Paeonia x suffruticosa ‘Tamafuyo’. Its large, semi-double pink blooms resemble soft apple blossoms. Unlike many tree peonies, ‘Tamafuyo’ has a good fragrance.
Chinese Tree Peonies are increasingly popular, and many new cultivars are now on the market. Paeonia lactiflora ‘Marguerite Gerard’, with its wonderful double pink flowers and strong perfume, is a wonderful old-fashioned cultivar. Like most peonies, it requires a cool winter and grows well in full morning sun and afternoon shade. Flowering from spring to summer, a good top dressing of lime each year will help with growth and flowering. Available as bare-rooted plants in winter (June – July) and as potted specimens in spring.
Peonies not flowering or growing well
Peonies are magnificent flowers and surprisingly easy to care for, provided you know the secret to their success. Many people can have trouble encouraging peonies to grow and bloom, particularly in Australia. In this part of the world, the issue often lies with the soil’s pH level.
Peonies thrive in alkaline soil with a pH ranging from 7.5 to 8. However, Australia typically has acidic soils with a much lower pH, usually around 5.5. Dolomite lime is the solution to address this pH imbalance, and you may need to use a substantial amount of it.
But a word of caution: what about all the other plants in your garden that prefer acidic soil? Applying lime may not be suitable for them. The solution lies in growing your peonies in a container or a separate bed where you can adjust the pH without affecting neighbouring plants. Alternatively, some savvy gardeners with brick houses and concrete foundations opt to plant their peonies next to their homes, where the soil’s pH tends to be higher than in the rest of the garden.
Peony Roses (plants and Flowers) are available for sale from the following participating nurseries
'Sylvan Vale' 375 Olinda Creek Rd, Kalorama, VIC.3766
Including a large range of Rare and unusual bulbs, corms and perennials
470 Monbulk-Silvan Road Monbulk VIC 3793
"Guaranteed mail order flowering bulbs, perennials, roses, trees, landscaping plants, garden accessories and community fundraising Austra lia-wide."
412 James Lane, Fern Hill VIC. 3458 - Phone 0419002651
Large range of Rare plants, Climbers, Bulbs, Perennials Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Available both Retail and by Mail Order
PO Box 7040 Leura NSW 2780
Rare woodland plants, Trilliums Epimediums, Arisaemas, plus much more.www.lynnsrareplants.com.au
365 Lighthouse Rd Wynyard. TAS 7325
PH 03 6442 2012
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
357 Monbulk Road SILVAN VIC 3795
Guaranteed "garden worthy" bulbs, plants and perennials. Visit the website to browse our large range of daffodils or request the latest free catalogue.
P.O. Box 369 New Norfolk TAS 7140
Huge range of Spring and Summer flowering Bulbs
Old Hume Hwy, Welby NSW 2575
Servicing Southern Highlands NSWMt MACEDON PEONIES
Kerrie Valley, Macedon Ranges Victoria 3434
Wholesale quality cut flower suppliers and retail supplier of herbaceous peony plant clumps during winter.