If you are new to the peony and you opened an album of peonies, you might wonder if the person who created it had the slightest idea of what they were doing. Your first impression might be that they were confused about what flower is actually a peony. That’s because the perennial has uncountable species. Even scientists are yet to determine how many of them there are.
As a gardener who is passionate about growing peonies, there are many details you should know about this widely loved flower. That is what we want to do for you in this article: tell you everything you should know about the peony.
So what should every gardener know about the peony? Keep reading to discover. We start you off with an overview of the peony.
Basic Facts about the Peony
The peony is a flowering plant belonging to the genus peaonia. The genus is the only one in the family of Paeoniaceae.
Peony is said to be native to three continents, Asia, Europe, and Northwest America.
According to an ancient myth, the scientific name for peony, Paeonia, was given to the flower in honor of Peaon, a physician of the Greek gods and a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and medicine. It is no wonder that the plant is also associated with medicinal qualities.
Peonies are either herbaceous, intersectional or tree peonies ranging in height between 0.25 to a meter. The leaves are compound, large, and closely lobed. The flower may have or lack fragrance depending on the variety. The color of flowers ranges from white to red and pick and from purple to yellow.
Peony has a short blooming season (7-10 days). You will enjoy the splendor of flowering peonies from late spring to early summer. The peony is extremely generous with flowering, oftentimes toppling under its own weight.
The extent of the species in the genus is controversial among scientists. The number of species is thought to be between 25 and 40, where 33 is held as most probable.
If you are a gardener, you may be wondering which among the numerous species would be the most beautiful choice. We’ve got you covered.
10 species of peony that are extremely beautiful in your garden
Peonies have a long life, apparently some up to 100 years. If you plant one in your garden today, it will probably outlive you.
Most garden peonies will be described by the scientific name Paeonia lactiflora, also used as a prefix before their common name.
The peony flowers can range from those with a set of single petals to those with full ‘bulb’ petals. Here’s a list of 7 among the most beautiful species that you can choose from to grace your garden.
- Bowl of Beauty Peony
A single-petal flower that blooms on a strong stem with leaves presenting as narrow petals. Its bowl shape and bright color will bring splendor to your garden.
- Reine Hortense Peony
A color-shifting species that is now white, now pink, now purple, and now red depending on the time of the season. It has a dense shrub that is extremely generous with flowers.
- Miss America Peony
A gold medal winner with snow-white flowers. It blooms heavily and can resist the extreme cold of zone 2 winters, bouncing back without a scratch.
- Fairy Princess Peony
The fairy princess peony has satiny petals in a variety of colors. The yellow flares at the center give the flower a breathtaking charm. It can grow up to around 20” in height and will do well in a rich loamy soil.
- Buckeye Belle Peony
This beautiful species will adorn your garden with its glossy petals. The petals create a spectacular contrast with the gold anthers. The species is the 2010 gold medal of the American Peony Society and the Peony of the Year award winner in 2011.
- Prairie Charm Peony
The prairie charm peony blossoms better in the warmer zone 4 to give lovely yellow flowers. Its unique beauty explains why it was picked as the best in the Landscape Merit award in 2009. The clearly divided leaves also add to the beauty of this peony.
- First Arrival Peony
The first arrival is a stem peony that flowers early in the season, true to its name. It has a firm stem to support its blossomed flowers for a maximum of four weeks, even against storms. The flower’s pink/purple color will grace your garden while other peonies take their time to bloom. But you’ll need to yield to its caprices for a lone space without the struggle for nutrients.
With your list of 7 among the most beautiful peonies complete, your next worry is how to get them growing in your garden. We give you a comprehensive guide.
How to Grow Peonies
Peonies thrive easily, with little care, and for a long time. To guarantee this, it is enough to provide the right conditions for planting.
Once planted, peonies do not like being transplanted. So choosing the right location from the very beginning is crucial.
Choose a location with nutrient-rich soil, away from other plants. Peonies love their space and will not thrive if they have to scramble for nutrients. Good air circulation is also another reason peonies should be planted in their own space.
Sunlight and temperature
All the species of peonies are equal in enjoying good sunlight. A minimum of 6 hours of sun in summer will make your peony thrive well. Little light means fewer and smaller flowers. Besides, the fungal threat comes with dumbness beneath the peony.
But peonies also need the cooler temperature in zones 3-8. Cold winters are the period when peonies chill to form buds, ready for complete blossoming when spring and summer set in.
As already said earlier, peonies like nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Even though they are adaptable, waterlogged soils are a complete no. Instead, well-drained marginally acidic soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is optimal.
If your soil is clay, you could aid water drainage into the soil by adding manure or compost.
Well-drained soil doesn’t imply not watering your peony. Your peony will need a good amount of water to thrive well. 1-2 inches of water weekly is good enough.
Mulching the peony will help retain moisture and keep away weeds.
The best way to plant your peony is by using the bare root with at least 3 growth nodes.
Follow this process to help your peony grow well.
- Dig a hole about 12-18” below the surface.
- Loosen the soil around the hole to aid water drainage once the peony is planted.
- Throw a shovelful of compost to the bottom of the hole and add a handful of organic fertilizer. Add a shovelful of the soil you dug out and mix the three thoroughly.
- Pile the mixer into a cone shape, so that the top is around 2-3” from the surface. Place the bare root peony on top so that the roots are hanging on the sides. Ensure that the growth nodes do not go beyond 2-3” below the surface.
- Cover the planted peony with the soil you previously dug out and water. You can now wait to see your peony grow into a fully blossomed plant.
If your plant your pony in a pot, you can follow the same procedure, ensuring to calculate the distance and amounts of soil and compost to fit the adapted situation.
Preventing and remedying fungal disease
The one big enemy of the peony is the fungal disease known as botrytis.
Fungal disease is common in most soils and attacks plants that are weak when the weather is cold and wet. Fungal disease can also be passed between plants.
To prevent your peony from fungal disease, ensure that it gets enough sunlight and that the soil beneath is not perpetually humid from undrained water.
The signs of botrytis are dark buds and stems and rotting at the base of the stem. If you notice these signs, cut off the affected part and discard it to avoid passing the fungal disease to other plants.
Proper planting following the details on the conditions discussed above is key in preventing your peony from catching the fungal disease. A healthy pony will bring color and bloom to your garden when the season is ripe.
The peony season
We like to think that the peony has 3 seasons; the planting season, the budding season, and the flowering season.
The planting season is in fall, between September and November. Planting should be done at least 6 weeks before winter to allow the peony firm itself in the soil.
The budding season is in winter when the peony is chilled. These are the months between December and February. Because the peony is ‘dormant’ in this period, transplanting and dividing to create new plants can be considered.
You will know that the blooming season is here when the peonies put out the shoots and leaves. Flowering happens in late spring and early summer, the months between April and June. The time of flowering will vary depending on the variety of the peony.
Early flowering is for the tree peonies. These will bloom around Mother’s Day. The herbaceous variety flowers around Memorial Day while the intersectional variety blooms last.
If you want to enjoy peony flowers the entire flowering season, opt to grow all of these varieties.
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