Peonies are the rosy-cheeked, happy faces of spring. They’re cheerful and cheery flowers that bring joy to gardeners everywhere. But there are many different types of peonies out there, each with their own special characteristics and uses. So what type is the right one for you?
Classification of Peonies
Botanists classify peonies according to their plants’ different leaf structures, and they further break down the main types into several subtypes. Typically, these classes are named after the shape or structure of each plant’s flowers.
For instance, peony flowers may be classified as radially symmetrical, meaning the petals are mirror images of one another and the flower is shaped like a round ball or wheel. Or they may be classified as “poly symmetrical,” which means the petals do not match each other exactly and the plant usually has an odd number of petals.
Poly Symmetrical peonies may be described as either “regular,” with evenly spaced petals around the center of the flower, or “irregular,” which have petals of various shapes and sizes.
Each variety grows in a different way to produce buds at varying intervals throughout the growing season, so it’s important to understand when you can expect blooms from your plants.
Regular peonies will bloom on the same branch around April or May every year, so this is a good choice for people who like to predict where and when flowers will appear. They are also extremely durable plants that can tolerate cold winter weather.
In contrast, poly symmetrical peonies do not bloom regularly from one bud; rather, they produce buds in layers, with some flowers opening in May and others appearing a few weeks later. The advantage of this is that if one layer is damaged by pests or disease, the other buds on the plant will still be able to develop into healthy flowers.
So while regular peonies are better suited for those who prefer predictable blooms, irregular peonies may be better for gardeners trying to protect their investment from pests or inclement weather.
Uses for Peonies
Peonies are amazing blossoms that can be used in a variety of ways. Their flowers make great cuttings because they’re thick and fleshy, so they won’t dry out quickly. And since the petals have a waxy coating, they won’t need to be refrigerated. Just snip them off the plant and stick in water or any other vase of your choosing.
Peonies can also be used in a number of culinary dishes. Their thick leaves and unusual texture may remind some people of spinach, although their flavor is much more complex than that. They can also be sautéed and eaten like other leafy greens, or added as a colorful garnish to soups and salads.
Or if you’re looking for something bolder, try blending the petals with sweet fruits for cocktails or sprinkling them over fresh cheeses. Peonies are very aromatic and have a mild flavor on their own, and mixing them with stronger flavors like citrus will result in a delightfully sweet-and-sour taste.
10 Types of peonies
- Double Flowering Peony
The double flowering peony produces clusters of flowers at the end of each stem. The flower is either white or pink, with some varieties having both colors.
The plant requires four to eight hours of direct sunlight each day, and it grows best in a place with fertile soil. It enjoys being planted near water, so tell the gardener where to plant it .
This kind of peony does not grow well in an area that is exposed to strong winds or has cold winters. It is best to plant it in a protected area .
- Radially symmetrical peony (Korean Peony)
The Korean Peony, also known as a Radially symmetrical peony, is a flowering shrub that belongs to the genus Paeonia. It has white petals and is usually in bloom from early April to late May.
The flowers grow from the end of stems similar to how cherry blossoms do. The Korean peony can’t be grown anywhere else except for Korea and needs temperatures between 10-25 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the Korean peony is also known as the “king of flowers”.
The petals are usually in bloom from early April to late May, but can still be seen blooming until August. The flower has a very sweet scent and can grow up to three inches wide. It consists of white petals with hints of yellow and a green center.
The flower’s leaves are naturally green in color, but also have touches of red and yellow mixed with them. They grow up to six inches long and three inches wide, but they can be worn smaller if pruned regularly each year before the start of spring.
The Korean peony is a symbol of longevity and it is said that when planted in the front yard of a house, it will bring good luck to the household. It also signifies strength and courage. The flower is traditionally worn as an accessory on special occasions such as weddings and National Liberation Day.
- Octoploid peony
The octopoid peony is a flowering shrub that has eight petals, one of which is located in the center of its flower and seven are on the outside.
The octopoid peony usually blooms from mid May to early June for about two weeks. Its flower is often compared to the shape of an octopus and the center blue-colored petals resemble its head. The red colored petals represent the tentacles of an octopus and the white colored ones are like its body.
The octopoid peony is usually in bloom from mid May to early June for about two weeks, but can still be seen blooming until early July. The flower grows up to 3.5 inches wide and about 8-12 inches long. They grow from the end of stems similar to how cherry blossoms do.
The octopoid peony originated from China, but it is also grown in Japan and Korea. It needs temperatures between 10-25 degrees Celsius for it to bloom and can’t be grown anywhere else except for Korea and China.
It changes colors throughout the day, which makes it unique from other flowers. It is usually yellow or blue in color during the day and orange when under the influence of light at night.
- Tree Peony
The tree peony is related to the genus Paeonia, but is part of a different species known as mountain peonies. The tree peony produces large flowers that can range from six inches to one foot wide .
The tree peony normally blooms from April to May, with their flowers ranging in color from pink to white. It forms beautiful white and pink flowers that grow up to one foot tall on a woody stem. The tree peony has six petals with a yellow center .
The tree peony grows up to four feet tall on large brown branches. It is hardy and can withstand harsh winters, but may struggle in rainy weather. The tree peony requires an acidic soil that has lots of organic matter .
The range for the tree peony is "central China to northern Japan". They normally grow near mountain cliffs, where there is a lot of moisture and rich soil .
The tree peony is used as a landscaping plant for its beautiful flowers and hardy nature. The tree peony may be susceptible to deer and rabbit damage or dieback in severe winters, but can still survive the winter if it is sheltered correctly.
- Spatulate peony
The spatule peony is a flowering shrub that has six petals and one leaf on each stem.
The spatule peony usually blooms from late April to early May, but can still be seen blooming until June. Its flower grows up to two inches wide and about eight-ten inches long. The spatule peony has a strong fragrance that is sweet, which attracts bees to it. It forms flowers with white petals and a yellow center .
The spatule peony grows up to about two feet high and is a perennial flowering shrub. Usually the spatule peony has green leaves that are three inches long, with small edges that form a point. The spatule peony can be susceptible to deer and rabbit damage or dieback in severe winters .
The range of the spatule peony is from New York to Florida. The spatule peony normally grows in a rocky, gritty soil that usually can be found near the Red Cedar River .
The spatule peony is most often used as a landscaping plant for its strong fragrant smell and beautiful flowers. Its strong fragrance attracts bees and butterflies which makes it perfect for landscaping.
- Chinese Peony
The Chinese peony is part of the genus Paeonia. It produces flowers that are usually bright red, pink, or white and are large in size .
The Chinese peony normally blooms from April to May and they form twisted pink, purple, or white petals. These petals grow up to one foot tall with a yellow center .
The Chinese peony forms tree-like branches that grow up to six feet tall and are covered in small green leaves. This vegetation requires an acidic soil with lots of organic matter .
The range for the Chinese peony is from Japan, across mainland Asia, to Korea, Nepal, Siberia, India, and China .
- Moss Peony
The moss peony belongs to the genus moutan peonies of the Paeonia family. It grows up to about 1.5 meters high, and its entire stem is covered with a long cloak of green leaves to a depth of 20 centimeters.
The flowers are large, usually numbering six or seven per flower head and have a strong smell. The most common color of the moss peony is white, but this type of peony also comes in shades of pink, red, purple and yellow.
The flowers appear in spring and winter, but their bloom is limited to two to three weeks. Their leaves are large and leathery, generally with three or five lobes. The flowers are normally bell-shaped, but some may be funnel-shaped or have a trumpet shape .
The moss peony has an extremely long life span. Some plants live for more than 100 years due to the amount of energy they store in their thick underground roots.
- Flower Peony
The flower peony has about four to eight flowers per flower head. Compared with moss peonies, its appearance is less magnificent, but it blooms in early spring and is very fragrant.
Its flower heads are large, and its petals are light pink, white or deep red. In late spring, the flowers start opening up, and they continue to develop until late summer. In fall, the leaves turn red and yellow .
Peony roots are thick and fleshy but break easily when pulled from the ground. The peony likes to be planted in a place where there is little disturbance from animals like deer .
- Taiwan Peony
The Taiwanese peony has a height of 0.3 to 0.6 meters. This plant generally produces one flower head per stem, but occasionally two flowers appear on a single stem .
The Taiwanese peony has many different colors, such as white, light pink, deep purple and yellow. The flower head is mostly heart shaped with several petals .
This plant requires a minimum of three hours of direct sunlight each day. It does not grow well in areas that are exposed to strong winds or have cold winters. It is best to plant it in a protected area, such as beside the house .
- Kwanzan or Hanakura Peony
Flower of the kwanzan peony is pinkish white. The petals are large but narrow as they reach out from the center of the flower head .
The kwanzan peony needs a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight each day, and it grows best in fertile soil where there is plenty of water . It prefers to grow among other plants such as azaleas or rhododendrons. The areas where peonies are planted should not be disturbed by large animals, such as deer .
It is better to plant the peony in a protected area because it does not tolerate strong winds or cold winters. As long as they have enough sunlight and water, kwanzan peonies will thrive wherever they are planted .
- What is the difference between a peony and a poppy?
A poppy is a flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae . Its flower head, generally red, orange or yellow in color, contains many petals and stamens. The flower has two lips: the upper lip is called the palate and the lower lip is called the epicalyx .
The peony belongs to the genus paeonia of the Paeonia family and is the national flower of China. It has a long life span (about 100 years) and produces clusters of flowers that are either pink or white .
Moss peonies belong to the aforementioned genus paeonia, but they appear more massive than other peony plants. Their petals stay closed until their stamens open. They grow best if planted in a moist and shady area .
Peonies, unlike poppies, are perennial flowering plants that bloom in the spring or early summer .
- How can I tell if my peony is healthy?
The leaves on a healthy peony plant should be green, thick and glossy . The edges of the leaves are usually very smooth. Healthy flowers will open up in the morning and close at night but not hurt or damage their petals . A healthy peony also has a pleasant fragrance .
- How big can these plants grow to be?
The moss peony is the smallest of the three types. Its leaves are thick and glossy, but its petals are small compared to other peony plants .
The Taiwanese peony has thick stems, shiny green leaves and large heart-shaped flowers . It can grow up to six feet high (about 1.8 meters).
The peony is a flowering plant that belongs to the genus paeonia of the Paeonia family. It produces clusters of flowers at its end and has many different colors, such as white, light pink or deep purple. Its flower head can be heart shaped with petals curling inwards or outwards.
Peonies grow best when they have four to eight hours direct sunlight each day, fertile soil where there is plenty of water and protection from strong winds or cold winters (pink). They are not poppies but rather perennials that bloom during spring or early summer (white) . If you want your own peony plants, make sure it gets enough sun and water daily.