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Should you plant peonies in your garden?

In Chinese, the peony plant is known as "sho yu," which means "most beautiful," [source: Flowers and Plants] and that's an apt description of this many-flowered perennial. Peony flowers can be white or one of the shades of pink or red. They come in a variety of forms; you can choose from single, semi-double or double blooms, or anemone or Japanese type. They bloom through the summer, bringing color and joy to your yard. Nor is the enjoyment for the eyes only: The blossoms also have a delicate fragrance.

Peony bushes may grow relatively slowly during their first few years in your garden, but be patient; they can reach a height of two or three feet (up to a meter) and have been known to last more than a hundred years, gifting you with bright blossoms year after year. They grow best in areas with well-defined seasons. They need the cold of winter as a time when they can rest between flowering seasons. They'll be happiest when planted in a spot that has good sun exposure and plenty of loamy, well-drained soil. Once established in your garden, peonies require little from you and will continue to grow and flower even if neglected. They rarely fall prey to pests and diseases [source: Koehne], and will cheerfully grow back even if eaten by deer.

The peony tree is a larger variety of peony, although it is actually more of a shrub than a tree. Its flowers are more delicate than those of the herbaceous types, but the leaves are hardier and don't die back even during the winter months. Peonies have been a garden favorite for more than 2,000 years. Not only was their beauty valued, but they were believed to have medicinal properties [source: Flowers and Plants].