A collection of peonies in bloom presents a view of exquisite, huge flowers in white, pink to rose, red, lavender, and yellow. Those four to six inch flowers, double or single, are the norm. Even when bloom has finished for the summer, this perennial's foliage is attractive. Herbaceous peonies, usually Paeonia lactiflora, include many excellent cultivars and hybrids, old and new. Most peonies are shrubby plants with thick roots and large, compound, glossy green leaves on reddish stems. They bear large, many-petaled, showy flowers.
How to grow: Autumn planting is best; the peony prefers full sun and good, well-drained, moisture-retentive soil rich with humus. Plant with the "eyes" or growing points to the top about 1-1/2 inches below the soil surface. Mulch the first year to protect from severe cold. Stake before blooms open. Deadhead after flowering.
Propagation: By division of the roots.
Uses: As specimen plants, in beds or borders, and in the cutting garden, peonies can be an important part of any garden.
Related species: Paeonia mlokosewitschii, or the Caucasian peony, bears yellow flowers about five inches across. P. suffruticosa, the Japanese tree peony, is actually a woody shrub, usually reaching a height of five feet and a spread of six feet. P. japonica has exquisite single white flowers on trim plants and prefers shade.
Scientific name: Paeonia species