Peonies are a beautiful and popular type of flower that come in many different varieties. While they may all look similar at first glance, there are actually several different varieties of peonies, each with its own distinct appearance.
In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to some of the most popular types of peony flowers and explain what sets them apart.
Categories of Peonies
The different types of peonies can be broadly classified into three main categories within the Paeonia genus: herbaceous peonies, tree peonies, and Itoh peonies.
Within these categories, there is a great deal of variation in terms of size, shape, and color. Let’s take a closer look at each type before you learn how to grow peony flowers.
The first type of peony we’ll be discussing is the herbaceous peony. Herbaceous peonies are characterized by their lush green leaves and big, showy blooms. They tend to be some of the most deer-resistant species.
Herbaceous peonies die to the ground in the fall and re-emerge in the next spring. The peonies season usually starts from late spring to early summer.
Herbaceous peonies are also called bush peonies.
This type of fragrant peony typically grows to be about 2-3 feet tall and have a bushier growth habit than other peony types.
This type of peony is most commonly used in gardens and as cut flowers. Herbaceous peonies offer a wide variety of flower types from single peonies to semi-double peonies, double, bomb, Japanese, and Anemone peonies. The colors also vary, which range from deep red to yellow, white, cream, pink, rose, and more.
Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are deciduous, multi-stemmed woody shrubs that typically grow from 4 to 10 ft in height and spread up to 4 ft. The above-ground stem remains alive throughout the year.
Although these perennial plants grow slower than herbaceous peonies, they make excellent borders or accents, especially when planted in groups. They produce large flowers, which usually measure 6 to 8 inches across and are pink to white in color. However, cultivated varieties of tree peonies offer a more extensive range of flower colors, including red, purple, pink, white, and yellow.
Tree peonies are called Mudan in China.
Intersectional peonies are hybrid between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. Also called Itoh peonies, this type was named after Toichi Itoh, who is a Japanese plant breeder that first succeeded crossing a tree peony with an herbaceous type in the 1960s.
Intersectional or Itoh peonies exhibit large flowers and woody stems similar to tree peonies, but they wither to the ground in the fall like herbaceous peonies. This is why when choosing companion plants for peonies, they need to complement your garden when your peony plants go into dormancy.
Different Peony Flower Forms
As mentioned above, peony plants regardless of type can further be categorized depending on their flower forms. They can be single, semi-double, double, anemone, Japanese, and bomb form peonies.
Single Form Peonies
Some peony flowers have single forms and called single peonies. This kind has one or two rows of at least five prominent outer petals called guards. The guard petals enclose a center of golden pollen-bearing stamens. Some examples of single peonies are the Fairy Princess and Imperial Red peonies.
Semi-Double Form Peonies
Semi-double peonies also have five or more guard petals with a prominent center of pollen-bearing stamens. They have multiple rows of guard petals protruding from an exposed flower crown. Semi-double peonies can sometimes look like double peonies, except that their anthers are visible when the flowers are fully bloomed.
Double Form Peonies
Double type peonies are the most popular type of peonies for cut flower production. They have dense clusters of broad petals that make up large and full blooms. Five or more outer guard petals surround the central petaloids or transformed stamens and stigmas.
Bomb Form Peonies
Bomb type, on the other hand, is the largest and fullest form of a peony flower. Peonies of this type have prominent petaloids that keep on developing until they nearly obliterate the guard petals. Bomb type peonies give out a globular, pompom-like bloom.
Japanese Form Peonies
Japanese peonies are known for their decorative centers of staminodes or thin petaloids. The staminodes are partially transformed stamens that may or may not carry a trace of pollen.
Anemone Form Peonies
The anemone type is a more advanced type of Japanese peonies. Anemone peonies, which are often categorized under the semi-double type, have several rows of guard petals that surround a dense cluster of thin petaloids. Unlike Japanese peonies, anemone peonies do not flaunt anthers of any kind.
Types of Herbaceous Peonies
Peonies are a classic garden favorite. These beautiful flowers come in many different varieties, each with its own unique look. One type of peony that is particularly popular is the herbaceous peony.
Here are a few of the most popular types of herbaceous peonies.
‘Scarlett O’Hara’ Peony
Scarlet O’Hara peonies or Paeonia ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ showcase vivid and fiery scarlet red blooms with contrasting golden yellow anthers at the center.
These single-formed flowers are large and fragrant. Matching the attractive blossoms are rich green leaves that light up a spring garden.
This peony variety belongs in the herbaceous peony category and for its vigor, strong stems, and reliability.
This plant is a hybrid of two other peony varieties. These peonies are characterized by their large, cup-shaped flowers. They come in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, purple, and red. These flowers are very fragrant and make excellent cut flowers.
‘Festiva Maxima’ Peony
The ‘Festiva Maxima’ peony is a hybrid of the Paeonia lactiflora and the Paeonia suffruticosa. It was developed in France in 1851. These peonies are characterized by their large, double flowers. The flowers are generally white with crimson streaks running through them. The centers of the flowers are often green or yellow. Festiva Maxima peonies have a very strong fragrance.
‘Bowl of Cream’ Peony
The ‘Bowl of Cream’ peony is a hybrid of the Paeonia lactiflora and the Paeonia veitchii. It was developed in England in 1909. These peonies are characterized by their fluffy, double flowers. The flowers are primarily white with a touch of green in the center. They have a sweet fragrance that is reminiscent of vanilla.
A highly-recognized single type peony, the ‘America’ variety never fails to fascinate its audience with its vivid scarlet red ruffled petals that emerge from a cup-shaped bud. At the center are golden yellow anthers that further enhance the blooms’ appealing beauty.
‘America’ peonies are fragrant. Each plant typically produces eight to ten flowers in a single season. Mature plants reach up to 3 ft in height and spread up to about 1 ft.
‘Bowl of Beauty’
Claimed by many as one of the most beautiful peony cultivars is an herbaceous peony named Bowl of Beauty. This peony displays large anemone flowers that grow up to 8 inches in width. The outer petals are rose-pink in color, surrounding a dense cluster of light yellow petaloids at the center.
‘Bowl of Beauty’ peonies are fragrant. The flowers of this variety bloom in late spring to early summer and last for 7 to 10 days. Each plant grows about 2 to 3 ft in height and spreads up to 3 ft.
‘Nippon Beauty’ Peony
The Nippon Beauty variety (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nippon Beauty’) is recognized worldwide for its beautiful Japanese flower flowers. It produces fragrant blooms with deep red guard petals that form a cup. The center part of each bloom deserves equal attention because of its feathery bright red staminodes edged with gold.
This herbaceous perennial grows up to 3 ft tall.
‘Sea Shell’ Peony
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sea Shell’ or ‘Sea Shell’ peonies are eye-catching single form peonies with vibrant golden-yellow stamens and bright pink guard petals that fade to blush as the flower matures. A famous Chinese peony, this herbaceous perennial plant produces fragrant flowers on sturdy and erect stems.
This peony variety blooms vigorously in late spring to early summer for approximately 7 to 10 days. Each plant reaches up to 3 ft in height and wide.
‘Paul M. Wild’ Peony
One word that describes this peony variety best is breathtaking. When in full bloom, the ‘Paul M. Wild’ peonies showcase beautiful full double form blooms in velvety cardinal red colors that do not fade. Individual flowers are enormous and slightly scented.
This peony variety is also known for its strong, erect stems. They make excellent cut flowers or as border plants in gardens. Fully established plants reach up to 1.5 to 2 ft tall and 2 to 3 ft wide.
‘Krinkled White’ Peony
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’ is an award-winning single type, mid-blooming peony. Regarded as one of the best white peonies available, this Chinese peony variety flaunts prominent blooms with crinkled white petals surrounding a clump of golden-yellow stamens at the center.
The flowers of Krinkled White peonies are slightly scented. The sturdy and straight stems make this peony outstanding cut flowers.
Types of Tree Peonies
There are many different types of tree peonies, each with its own unique flowers and foliage.
‘Shimane Sedai’ is one of the most common tree peonies. It delivers attractive rose-pink semi-double blooms that further develop into a double type as the plant grows older. These tree peonies grow up to about 4 ft in height and spread up to 3 ft wide.
‘Boreas’ is another popular example of tree peonies. Known for its bright red color, boreas peony displays vivid burgundy-red semi-double flowers with ruffled petals. This plant reaches up to 5 ft tall at full maturity in five to eight years after planting.
Paeonia lutea is a type of tree peony that is native to China and Mongolia. It is characterized by its small yellow flowers and woody stems. Paeonia lutea typically only grows to be 3-4 feet tall and has a spreading growth habit, making it ideal for use as ground cover plant.
Paeonia lutea var. Ludlowii
Paeonia lutea var. Ludlowii, more commonly known as the yellow peony, is a beautiful perennial flower that is native to China. The vivid yellow petals of the flower are set off by dark red centers, making for a stunning contrast.
The flowers typically bloom in late spring or early summer, and they make an excellent addition to any garden. In addition to their beauty, yellow peonies are also said to symbolize good fortune and prosperity. As such, they make an ideal gift for weddings and other special occasions.
Paeonia veitchii is a type of tree peony that is native to China and Nepal. It is characterized by its large flowers and woody stems. Paeonia veitchii can grow to be quite large, reaching heights of up to 8 feet. The flowers of this type of tree peony are typically white or pale pink in color with dark red streaks running through them
‘Dutchess of Kent’
The ‘Dutchess of Kent’ peony is a beautiful flower that was named after the Duchess of Kent in the 19th century. It is a herbaceous perennial that is part of the Paeoniaceae family, and it is native to China.
The Dutchess of Kent peony typically blooms in May or June, and its flowers are pink or white with a yellow center. The plant grows to be about 2-3 feet tall, and it prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade. The Dutchess of Kent peony is a popular choice for gardens because of its beauty, and it is also a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture.
Paeonia mlokosewitschii is a type of tree peony that is native to the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It is characterized by its very large size; Paeonia mlokosewitschii can grow to be up to 8 feet tall! Additionally, Paeonia mlokosewitschii has very large flowers that can be up to 14 inches in diameter. Paeonia mlokosewitschii is available in a limited range of colors, including white, pink, and red.
‘Dutchess of Marlborough’
The ‘Dutchess of Marlborough’ peony is a beautiful flower that is perfect for adding a touch of elegance to any garden. The flowers are large and white, with a delicate fragrance. They bloom in early summer, and their blooming period lasts for about three weeks.
The ‘Reine Elizabeth’ peony is a hybrid flower that was created in the early 20th century. It is a cross between the herbaceous peony and the Chinese tree peony, and it is named after Queen Elizabeth II.
The ‘Reine Elizabeth’ peony is characterized by its large, double flowers, which can be up to 10 inches in diameter. The flowers are a deep pink color, with a hint of purple. They have a strong fragrance, and they bloom in late spring or early summer. ‘Reine Elizabeth’ peonies are easy to care for and make an excellent addition to any garden.
Rockii tree peonies are native to China and are characterized by their small flowers and compact growth habit. Rockii tree peonies typically only grow to be 3-4 feet tall and have a spreading growth habit, making them ideal for use as ground cover peony plants. Rockii tree peonies come in a wide range of colors, including white, pink, red, and yellow.
The Shimanishiki peony flowers are hybrid plants that were created in Japan in the 1950s. It is a cross between the Paeonia lactiflora and the Paeonia suffruticosa, two of the most popular peony species. The result is a plant that has the best qualities of both parents:
It is large and showy like the P. lactiflora, but it is also heat-tolerant and drought-resistant like the P. suffruticosa. The flowers of the Shimanishiki peony are typically white with pink streaks, and they have a sweet fragrance.
The plant grows to be about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, and it blooms in early summer. If you are looking for a beautiful and low-maintenance addition to your garden, the Shimanishiki peony is an excellent choice.
Types of Intersectional Peonies
Here are a few of the most popular types of intersectional (Itoh) peonies to grow.
Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’ is an Itoh peony that forms semi-double flowers. This herbaceous perennial produces lightly fragrant white blooms with a burst of dark lavender hue from the center. The leaves are toothed.
Cora Louise Itoh peonies are vigorous, producing up to 50 flowers per plant in a single season. Fully mature plants grow about 2.5 ft in height and 3.5 ft in width. This variety makes excellent border plants or in containers, mass planting, and urban gardening.
‘Kopper Kettle’ Peony
Paeonia ‘Kopper Kettle’ is another famed Itoh hybrid of peonies. Unlike most peonies, this cultivated variety displays semi-double to double flowers in unique hues of red, yellow, orange, and sometimes copper-pink petals. As the blooms open, they reveal a dark red center with bright yellow stamens.
Kopper Kettle peonies are vigorous plants that reach about 2.5 ft in height to 3.5 ft in width.
‘Bartzella’ peonies showcase semi-double to double form pastel yellow flowers. Part of the intersectional peonies or Itoh peonies category, this peony hybrid produces excellent cut flowers with sturdy stems. It is dubbed as one of the best yellow peonies available. The flowers have a spicy-sweet fragrance, with each flower averagely measuring 6-8 inches across.
Fully mature plants reach up to 2.5 to 3 ft tall and wide. They bloom vigorously in late spring.
Peonies are a beautiful and popular type of flower that come in many different varieties. While they may all look similar at first glance, there are actually several different kinds of peonies, each with its own distinct appearance. In this blog post, we hope you have learned a little bit more about some of the most popular types of peonies and peony colors and what sets them apart. Thanks for reading!
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Penn State Extension. (2019). The Beloved Peony. [online] Available at: https://extension.psu.edu/the-beloved-peony
Heritage Garden. (2019). Peony (Paeonia) — Heritage Garden. [online] Available at: http://heritagegarden.uic.edu/peony-paeonia