The information in this post pertains to herbaceous peonies – the ones most people
in Ontario refer to as old fashioned peonies. Tree peonies and Itoh peonies will be
discussed another time.
Fall is the time to plant/transplant peonies. Peonies should be planted when they
are dormant, up to six weeks before ground freezes. It is not unusual to find
potted peonies for sale in Spring in garden centres. They can be planted in Spring
but don’t usually establish as well as Fall planted peonies.
Choosing Peonies can be a daunting task because there are so many options. Colour
of bloom is often the first criteria to consider but there are other peony
attributes including flower form and size, foliage type, fragrance and bloom time.
Peony bloom colours are typically rosy but range from cream, white, every shade of
pink to lavender, crimson, maroon and nearly black.
Flower form and size
Peony blossoms can have a diameter as small as 3 inches to more than 9 inches.
There is a variety of flower forms. The Canadian Peony Society recognizes 5
forms: single, japanese. anemone, semi double and fully double. The fully double
flowers are beautiful but usually their heavy heads and skinny stems leave them
laying in the dirt after a rain. Singles, japanese, anemone, and semi doubles usually
stand up well and rarely need staking.
In my opinion peonies are the perfect summer foliage plant. After blooming,
peonies provide a lush green shrub like mound that perfectly sets off summer's
later perennial flowers. Peony foliage varies, some leaves are very finely cut, almost
fernlike and others are very coarse. A bonus is that some peony foliage turns to
beautiful fall colours at end of season.( ie Rita, Philippe Rivoire)
A word of caution, some peony foliage browns up early and some are susceptible to
Some peonies have intoxicating rose like scents, others lemony while some have no
scent at all. Usually doubles are the most fragrant. If you plan to cut flowers and
bring them indoors the heavily scented peonies can be overwhelming. Scented
peonies to consider are Myrtle Gentry. Kansas, Diana Parks. Kelways Glorious and
Mon Jules Elie.
Peony bloom time is generally listed as early, mid season or late. The peak for mid
season bloom is typically about June 15 in my garden. By adding early and late
bloomers it is possible to have peonies in bloom for about six weeks.
In my garden peonies that bloom well and maintain attractive foliage till frost
include: Albert Crouse, Better Times. Cheddar Gold, Dandy Dan, Do Tell, Highlight.
Illini Warrior, Karl Rosenfeld, Krinkled White, Miss America, Mon Jules Elie, Mr Ed
and Red Charm.
The Canadian Peony Society provides a list of peony vendors. Most of these
vendors have good online catalogues, and ship peony roots in September.
Plant a peony this Fall. A peony well planted can live up to 100 years while
demanding very little attention.
authored by Joy Cullen