Of all the flowers that beg for our attention, the peony is the queen of the “Look At Me!” plants. And how can you resist? Every variety of peony—pink, red, purple, white, etc.—stands out in even the most vibrant of gardens. Huge blooms capture the eye and dare us to look away for even a second. Plus, they will remain your longtime friend in the garden.
Peonies can live up to 50 years with even the smallest of care. This is one flower that certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome! Peonies can survive in growing zones 3-8, and they can thrive on the smallest of care. Despite its attractive features, deer and rabbits cut a wide path away from the plants.
Even in the world of peonies, where each bloom is worth a thousand descriptions, there are the standouts. Below are five varieties that are sure to make your neighbors flock to your yard in collective admiration and envy.
And at the end, check out some basic care that apply to all these beauties.
The winners are…
The origin of Alexander Fleming Peonies remain a mystery. Sources site its origins in either England, France, or possibly the Netherlands. The only certainty is that it is named after the great Dr. Alexander Fleming, who discovered Penicillin.
This is a dramatic peony with large, pink double blooms that give off a sweet citrus scent. Spring time reveals flowers that can reach 8” in diameter. Burst after burst of pinks sit proudly amidst green glossy leaves. The Alex Fleming sits tall in any perennial garden. Plant in a bed of ferns for stunning contrasts, or place it behind a bed of early spring tulips for a two season burst of different colors. Cut some of the flowers and bring them inside for a grand flower arrangement in every vase in the house.
Karl Rosenfield Peonies
Karl Rosenfield Peonies redefine how to appreciate the color red. Gargantuan 8” blooms can last up to six weeks with proper deadheading. Ruffly brilliant red flowers nestle nicely with the glossy green leaves peonies are known for. Its sweet citrus fragrance will liven up the flower beds or all the rooms in your house.
Paeonia “Red Sarah Bernhardt” Peony
This legendary peony was first created in 1906 by the infamous French nursery, Lemoine. A hundred years later, the Paeonia ‘Red Sarah Bernhardt’ Peony is still the best seller of the bunch. It’s also one of the sturdiest of the peonies, and one of the longest lasting bloomers. From late spring well into summer, this peony shimmers with a purplish red hue inside massive 8” blooms. Flower beds, homes, and even containers on the patio will come alive with the addition of this traditional favorite.
Red is dramatic, but white is sublime. The Paeonia ‘White Sarah Bernhardt’ Peony displays a bounty of white bowl-shaped blooms with a subtle fragrance. Its sturdy growth requires no staking. It’s also a top choice for cut flowers. The white blooms compliment any flower arrangement.
Sarah Bernhardt Pink Peony
This is the go to cut flower for florists. Its double pink blooms and wafts of citrus please even the most jaded of flower aficionados. The Sarah Bernhardt Pink Peony is also one of the toughest of the peony varieties. It can withstand almost any soil, which makes it a perfect addition in almost any landscape design. Who said pink isn’t tough?
Care and Planting
Peony care requirements are the same across the board. They prefer full sun, although partial shade is doable once established. The best time to plant peonies is in the fall. All peonies ship bareroot instead of a full green growing plant. This ensures great growth once spring arrives. When you look for a planting site, try to find an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
After you dig your hole, fill it with a good organic compost. Plant your bareroot so buds are facing skywards and are about 11/2 inches below the soil line. Finally, water well and add about 4 inches of mulch to keep new roots from freezing in the doldrums of winter.
Care during the season is quite easy. Peonies are tough without all the fluff. Water regularly, and apply a good liquid fertilizer in the late fall after blooming season. Deadhead flowers during bloom time. In the fall, get rid of all plant debris and cut back the peonies to the ground. That’s it! You’re on your way to flower heaven!
Peonies are the show-stoppers. They are the go-to flower powerhouse when nothing else is flourishing in the garden. Best of all, they live for decades without you spending precious time caring for each facet of the flowering.