How to Extend the Peony Season
Peonies are one of America’s best-loved perennials and luckily, they’re also one of the easiest to grow. These robust, shrub-like plants bloom for generations with virtually no attention. They tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, are rarely bothered by deer or other pests and look attractive from spring through fall.
Of course the best thing about peonies is their amazing flowers — blousy blooms as big as your hand with petals like brushed silk. With their soft texture and romantic colors, it’s no surprise they’re such a popular choice for bridal bouquets.
The only complaint one could ever have with peonies is that their gorgeous flowers come and go so quickly. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have peonies in bloom for two months rather than two weeks? Well you can, and here’s how.
There are actually three types of peonies: tree, herbaceous and intersectional. Each type flowers at a slightly different time, and within each type there are early, mid and late bloomers. To extend the season, all you need to do is choose your peony plants based on their bloom time — as well as their appearance!
Tree peonies have woody stems like a shrub and can reach 5 feet tall. They are the first peonies to bloom each spring and start opening at about the same time as late season tulips. The flowers are much larger than standard peonies (up to 10” across) and they come in a wider range of colors, including cream, yellow, gold, coral, lavender, pink and deep red. Shown above is Paeonia suffruiticosa ‘Renkaku’.
Herbaceous peonies are the old-fashioned “bush” peonies that die back to the ground every winter. Plant heights range from 24 to 36” tall, and flowers styles are classified as single, semi-double, double, anemone and bomb (shown above). Herbaceous peonies start blooming in early summer at approximately the same time as lilacs and continue for several weeks.
Intersectional peonies (also called Itohs) are hybrids created by crossing an herbaceous peony with a tree peony. Itohs die back to the ground like herbaceous peonies. This makes them more winter hardy than tree peonies, but their flowers are as just as large and come in a similar range of colors. The foliage of an Itoh is similar to a tree peony and the flower stems are very strong. The variety shown above is Bartzella.
To learn more about planting peonies, read our Growing Guide for Peonies. Below is a list of popular herbaceous peonies sorted by bloom time. When shopping for tree and intersectional peonies, look for the same early-mid-late designations.
Early Season Bloomers:
- Peony Black Beauty
- Peony Bowl of Beauty
- Peony Purple Spider
- Peony Festiva Maxima
- Peony Buckeye Belle
Mid Season Bloomers:
- Peony Lady Alexandra Duff
- Peony Bunker Hill
- Peony Duchess de Nemours
- Peony Sorbet
- Peony Lady Liberty
- Peony Celebrity
- Peony Red Supreme
Late Season Bloomers: