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 Paeonia subsp. var.  Peony
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Features: flowers, fragrance, cut flowers
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USDA Zones: to
Sunset Zones:
Flower features: red, yellow, white
Paeoniaceae > Paeonia var. ,

They are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America. Boundaries between species are not clear and estimates of the number of species range from 25 [1] to 40.[2]

Most are herbaceous perennial plants 0.5–1.5 metres tall, but some resemble trees up to 1.5–3 metres tall. They have compound, deeply lobed leaves, and large, often fragrant flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow, in late spring and early summer.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Paeonia (after the mythical physician Paeon). Ranunculaceae. Peony. Piney. Paeony. Specially attractive and important flower-garden perennials, prized for the showy spring and early summer bloom.

Herbaceous or woody: roots thickened to form upright rootstocks: lvs. large, alternate, pinnately compound or dissected, mostly ternate: fls. terminal and mostly solitary, but sometimes several, a very few species yellow, but mostly red, purple or white; sepals 5, persistent; petals conspicuous, broad, 5-10, but doubting may take place in any species; stamens numerous: carpels 2-5 on a fleshy disk, becoming dehiscent; follicles bearing the indurated more or less conspicuous style; seeds large, fleshy.—Species about 25, Eu. and Asia, and one small-fld, species (P. Brownii) in Calif. and northward. Peonies are among the dozen commonest and best hardy herbaceous perennials. By variation and hybridization, the garden forms are now very many. A botanical monograph by E. Huth, is in Engler's Jahrbucher, Vol. 14 (1891). An account by Baker, from which much of the recent botanical characterization is drawn, appears in G.C. II. 21, pp. 732, 779, 828, and Vol. 22, p.9 (1884). See also R. Lynch, Journ. Roy. Hort, Soc. 12:428 (1890). According to Peter Barr, every species mentioned in Index Kewensis had been intro. to cult, in Eu. except P. obovata, a native of Manchuria; this species, once intro. but long ago lost, has very recently been brought again into horticultural notice.

It is customary to divide the genus into two groups, one including the herbaceous species and the other (chiefly P. suffrulicosa or P. Moulan) comprising the woody kinds. This division is not invariable as the plants grow under cultivation, and to the horticulturist who wishes to distinguish the stem-species it is confusing. It may be better from the modern gardener's point of view to make the primary divisions on color of the flowers, into the red-white species and the yellow species. The yellow-flowered species have played a small part in the evolution of the cultivated forms, although P. lutea is now beginning to contribute a strain, and other yellow species are very promising. The species are difficult to distinguish, even in unmodified forms, and the garden forms are very puzzling to a systematic botanist. The confusion is increased by the use of Latin names for many of the garden varieties. No two systematists could be expected to agree on the limits and nomenclature of species. The following descriptive account is a compromise arrangement of the species.

As with most important genera of a considerable number of members, only a few species are in general cultivation and the others are known mostly only to amateurs and collectors. From the cultural point of view, there are two groups of peonies,—the shrubby or "tree" peonies, and the herbaceous peonies. The former are the product of P. suffruticosa, although the woody section has been extended lately by the addition of P. Delavayi and P. lutea. The Moutans are low shrubs, branching near the ground and bearing many large flowers in shades of red and running to white and even yellowish. This group is now much eclipsed by the popularity of the herbaceous kinds, which bloom each year on shoots that arise from the crown, the plant dying completely to the ground on the approach of winter. These garden forms are probably the issue of different species, as P. officinalis of Europe and P. albiflora of Siberia and the far East. The set derived most directly from the former species are mostly earlier flowering than those from P. albiflora. The botanical parentage of the horticultural herbaceous peonies needs to be worked out from living material combined with a study of the historical development. It is commonly understood, however, that the present race of herbaceous peonies is mostly the progeny of P. albiflora, but many are from P. officinalis. The importance of the shrubby or tree peonies is not now great, at least not in this country. The species, P. suffruticosa was formerly prized for its bushy habit and wide range of flowers both single and double. The varieties of this species were once commonly propagated by grafting them on the fleshy roots of the herbaceous species. Non-blooming shoots are chosen as cions, and the union is made in late summer, the tuber and its cion then being handled through the winter in a frame, to be ready for planting put in the spring. A yellow- flowered shrub-peony is lately offered by Lemoine (La Lorraine) as a cross between P. lútea and P. suffruticosa. This bloomed first in 1904; it was awarded a prize in Paris in 1909. The flowers are soft sulfur-yellow with a salmon tinge when opening, becoming lighter when fully open.

The herbaceous peony has come into great prominence in recent years. In this country, the merits of the plant have been recognized by the organization, in 1903, of the American Peony Society. This Society has now begun the publication of bulletins. It early undertook the study of varieties in a systematic way, cooperating in an extensive test at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The test-grounds and the studies corollary to the work, under the leadership of the late Professor John Craig, have yielded four publications: "Peony Check-List," by Coit, 1907; "The Peony," by Coit, Bulletin No. 259, Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station, 1908, in which is given an historical account of the peony, description of the species, and bibliography, as well as cultural advice; "Classification of the Peony" [varieties], by Batchelor, Bulletins Nos. 278 and 306, 1910 and 1911. The reasons for the popularity of the modern race of herbaceous peonies is given by Coit to be the ease with which they are grown, hardiness, permanence in the garden when once established, large size and wide range in color and form of the very showy flowers, fragrance of many of the varieties, freedom from disease and insects, usefulness both for cut-flowers and for landscape effects. As to season of the stem-types, he writes that it is begun, at Ithaca, "about the middle of May by P. tenuifolia, and carried along by the well-known old double red peony (P. officinalis var. rubra). Then come the tree peonies (P. Moutan [P. suffruticosa]) and, before they are gone, the earlier varieties of the Chinese peonies (P. albi- flora). Somewhere near July 14, the blooming season closes with the latest varieties of the albiflora group."

The garden herbaceous peonies. (Wm. A. Peterson.)

Herbaceous peonies (Figs. 2719-2722) are among the most hardy, showy, and easily grown of all garden flowers. They stand the severe cold as far north as Duluth without any ground covering. In the southern states their growing season is so extended that they do not develop as fine blooms.

In delicacy of tint and fragrance, the peony more nearly approaches the rose than any other flower. The old-fashioned early red "piny," cultivated since the time of Pliny, is still a favorite in our gardens. Nearly all of the many hundred named varieties grown at present have been obtained by crossing the various forms of P. albiflora. Of the great host of double varieties, nearly all have been developed since 1850. The single-flowering sorts are not so popular as the doubles. They do not seem to keep so long when cut, and fade more rapidly when on the plant. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Peonies grow in all kinds of soil, but do best in a deep, rich, rather moist loan. A clay subsoil, if well drained, is very beneficial when blooms are desired, but the tubers ramify more in lighter soil if grown for propagating purposes. In preparing the bed. trench the soil thoroughly 2 or more feet deep, working in a great quantity of well-rooted cow-manure, as the plants are gross feeders. The ground should be kept well tilled, and an annual top-dressing put above the plants in November ; this should be forked into the earth the next spring. They should have a liberal supply of water at all times, and especially while in bloom. Liquid manure, when applied in the growing season and at a time when the ground is dry, gives good returns, both in the growth of the plant and size of the bloom.

The eyes should be set 2 inches below the surface. In transplanting, it is a good plan to remove all the old

earth so as to start with fresh unimpoverished soil next to the roots. The flowers produced on small divided plants are likely to be imperfect, but when thoroughly established a plant will continue to bloom if undisturbed for upward of twenty years. During the period of blooming an inconspicuous wire support is desirable, as a heavy rain often beats down the flowers.

The host of ancient and modem varieties available, ranging from purest white to deepest crimson, in such a diversity of form and size, afford great opportunity for the making of extensive color schemes. Peonies do fairly well in partial shade, which prolongs and intensifies the color of the bloom, and therefore may be used to advantage to brighten up somber nooks. The period of blooming for herbaceous peonies ranges from the middle of May through June. They grow 1 to 4 feet high and are therefore suitable for planting in front of shrubbery, along driveways, and are especially pleasing when entering into a distant vista. The richly colored shoots, which find their way up through the soil in the early spring, have considerable value for striking effect. When planted in a border with fall- blooming perennials, such as phlox and funkia, their rich glossy foliage is very effective. The old flowers should be cut off, so that no unnecessary seed follicles will be formed, and thereby exhaust the plant. It ia important to remove the faded foliage on all peonies in November so that it may not interfere with the next year's shoots.

Because peony buds admit of being shipped long distances without water, and arrive in good condition, they are now used very extensively on Decoration Day and for June weddings. When cut in tight buds and closely wrapped in paraffin paper, some varieties can be held in cold storage for over a month and then open up very satisfactorily.

For forcing, lift the plants in September and place in a coldframe where they will be accessible when the time for forcing arrives. When brought under glass, a uniform temperature of 55°to 60° should be maintained. By feeding well with liquid manure, strong blooms can be produced in eight weeks. A two years rest is necessary before the plants are forced again. To secure extra-fine blooms on double-flowering varieties, remove the lateral buds as soon as formed. When the first lateral bud is retained instead of the terminal one, a later period of blooming is secured.


The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


This varies according to type, For instance Tree peonies are propagated by grafting but Herbaceous and Itoh peonies by root division. However new peonies are raised from seed. [3]

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

The easiest and most satisfactory method of propagation is by division of the large, thick roots. The roots may be lifted and divided any time from the middle of August until the stalks appear again in the spring. The best time, however, is in early autumn, when the cut surfaces soon callus over and new rootlets form before the frost sets in. Choose a large stool, cut off the leaves and separate into as many divisions as can be made with an eye to each tuber. In digging, care should be taken that all of the tubers are dug up, for if not they may remain dormant a season and then produce a shoot, giving rise to the many stray plants frequently found in old beds. Tubers divided without an eye should also be planted, as they often act in a similar way and make a showing above ground in two years'time. Peonies, like most tuberous plants, when dormant stand considerable exposure and can be shipped long distances with safety.

Grafting is resorted to in herbaceous peonies when new and rare varieties are to be rapidly increased. An eye of the desired sort is inserted into the tuber of some strong-growing variety, from which all the previous eyes have been removed. This operation is usually performed in August. The grafted plants should be placed in frames for the winter and transplanted the next year into nursery rows.

Propagating by seed is somewhat tedious, and is employed only for increasing distinct species and for obtaining new varieties. The seeds should be gathered as soon as ripe and kept damp until sown in November. A mulch the first season will keep the ground moist and prevent weeds from growing. Usually two years are required for the seed to germinate and three more before a well-developed bloom can be expected. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Pests and diseases

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Among the peony diseases, the most prevalent and destructive is the botrytis blight, which attacks the stems, buds, and leaves. Early in the spring the young stems are attacked at the surface of the ground. The tissue turns black, and later the stems wilt and fall over. Sometimes this trouble is seen as late as the following season. The use of green manure appears to favor the attacks of the disease, and only well-rotted manure or mineral fertilizers should be employed. Later, the young flower-buds are attacked, and these turn black and dry up. This is the so-called "bud- blast." When the buds are not attacked until they are well developed, they turn brown and fail to open. The petals are then found to be a dark brown rotten mass, and this is known as the "bud-rot." In very wet seasons, as high ae 80 to 90 per cent of the buds may be thus affected. Even the flowers may be discolored by spots resulting from this fungus. The leaves are usually the last to be attacked, and the symptoms are large irregular spots which become brown and dry.

While control methods have not been devised against this and other peony diseases, it is probable that sanitary measures will prove to be most practicable. The prompt and thorough removal of the wilted stems and rotted buds, together with the complete destruction by fire of all leaves and stems in the fall, will tend to lessen the extent of diseases the following year. For an account of peony diseases by a specialist, see Whetzel, "American Florist," April 10, 1915. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Paeonia caucasica
Tree peony


Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

P. Broteri, Boiss. & Reut. (P. corallina var. Broteri, Huth). Fls. red, varying to white: carpels densely white-tomentose: allied to P. officinalis and P. corallina in lvs. and habit.—P'. corsica, Sieber. Much like P. coriacea.—P. Emodii, Wall. Closely related to and sometimes regarded as a synonym of P. anomala. B.M. 5719. Gn. 45:70.—P. humilis, Retz. (P.peregrina var. humilis, Huth). Rather low: fls. bright red: carpels glabrous or very nearly so.

B.M. 1422.—P. microcdrpa, Boiss. & Reut. Allied to the preceding and referred to it by Huth, but dwarfer. Var. Jonathan Gibson is a garden form, with very downy lvs.—P. mollis., G. Anders. Low. about 1 ft., with 1 fL to the St.: lvs. dull green above, glaucous and pubescent beneath, with many oblong-lanceolate segms.: fls. deep red and subsessile: carpels 2-3, pilose, erect-curved.

A doubtful species allied to P. anomala. L.B.C. 13:1263.—P. pubens, Sims. Allied to P. officinalis probably: lvs. hairy below, margins red.— P. Russii, Biv. (P. corallina var. Russii, Huth). Allied to P. corallina, but with the lvs. decidedly hairy below.—P. sessiliflora, Sims.

Nearly related to P. mollis; very low: fls. subsessile, white. —P. triternota. Pallas (P. corallina var. Pallasii. Huth). Differs from P. corallina in its rounded lvs., green st , and rose or whitish fls. B.M. 1441 (P. daurica). K.C.Davis.CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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