Peonies have been grown in gardens for more than 2,000 years. Throughout the ages, many people believed peonies had medical healing powers. The Chinese were especially fond of the flower, whose name in Chinese is "sho yu," meaning "most beautiful" [source: Flowers and Plants]. So if it's been good enough for thousands of years, surely it's good enough for your Midwest garden, right? Absolutely. And if color is your goal, one of the most popular -- and colorful -- perennials of America's heartland is the peony, or Paeonia.
They're tough and resilient, which makes them perfect for the many seasons of the Midwest. Able to grow back every year for more than 100 years, peonies aren't infected by disease or damaged by pests [source: Koehne]. They're hardy in the face of neglect, and their blooms -- which flower in red, pink or white -- are a fragrant harbinger of summer.
The cold is actually good for the plant, which needs a dormant period between blooms. Though they will be slow to grow in their early years, they can eventually reach heights of 2 to 3 feet (between .6 and 1 meter). For the best growth, peonies should have good sun exposure and be planted in well-drained, loamy soil.
The herbaceous peony comes in five forms: single, double, semi-double, anemone and Japanese. If you want a larger plant, you could go with a peony tree, which is actually more of a shrub. Only the flower head will die away in late fall and winter, but the remaining body of the shrub will stand its ground all year long. However, the blooms on these shrubs are not as hearty as those on their herbaceous relatives.
Combining peonies and coneflowers will look nice and be a long-lasting combo. Both flowers are far more tolerant of deer feeding than other plants, which goes a long way in the deer populated forests spanning the Midwest area.