Peonies make fabulous additions to gardens and hedges for their extravagant, fragrant blooms and their lush, glossy, green foliage. With proper placement and soil care, these fragrant perennials will delight you for many years. In fact, many plants continue to produce their vibrant display for 100 years or more with very little care. Because of their beauty and longevity, healthy peonies symbolize good fortune and happy marriage.
Types of peonies
There are three basic types of peonies. While all types produce abundant, fragrant blooms in a variety of colors and shapes, each has slightly different needs and appearances.
Herbaceous peonies are bush-like plants with thin and limber stems that often bend under the weight of their massive, plentiful flowers. They grow to about four feet high, and mature plants can produce more than 40 large blossoms at a time. Their foliage dies after the first frost.
Tree peonies are woody shrubs that can grow to ten feet tall. Their flowers are much larger than the herbaceous variety and display proudly on their sturdy, woody branches. They lose leaves in the fall, but their branches remain strong and intact throughout the winter.
Itoh peonies, also called intersectional peonies, are hybrids of the herbaceous and tree varieties and share characteristics of each. Like tree peonies, they produce many large, long-lasting blossoms and don’t require staking. Like their herbaceous parents, Itohs should be cut down to four to six inches in the fall—encouraging new stems to emerge in the spring.
If you live anywhere in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9 (that’s a band that runs across the north side of the southeastern United States), you can enjoy many years of at least one type of these relatively carefree and prolific flower producers.