Peonies are perennial garden classics, loved throughout the world for their extravagant, early summer blossoms. They are dependable, incredibly long-lived plants and will bloom for a generation or more with little or no attention. As cut flowers, peonies have no rivals. Alone or in mixed bouquets, they have an elegant natural beauty and a delicate, unforgettable perfume.
SUN AND SHADE: Peonies are sun-lovers and will perform best when they get at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. The more sun they get, the better they’ll bloom, so it’s best to plant your peonies in the sunniest location possible.
ZONE: Peonies are winter hardy in zones 3-8. They grow and flower best in areas that have cold winters.
SOIL: Most plants, including peonies, grow best in loose, fertile, well-drained soil. You can improve the quality of your soil by adding compost and an all-purpose fertilizer at planting time. Avoid planting in areas where the soil is soggy or compacted.
Let’s start with the classic spring-blooming favorite, herbaceous peonies. With their large blooms that are often fragrant, it is common to see peony plants that have been in the same location for 75 or more years. First, they are called herbaceous peonies because their leaves and stems are herbaceous, meaning they die back to the ground in the winter months,
Therefore, herbaceous peonies are best suited to gardeners in northern and central states where the temperatures are most favorable for the conditions they require. Herbaceous peonies will start blooming in late April through mid-June, depending on the cultivar, location, and weather in that location. Like most plants, different cultivars of peonies will bloom at different times during their approximate bloom season. Herbaceous peonies typically reach a maximum height of 2-3’ with a similar spread, making them a great perennial for the back of a perennial border.
There is a lot of talk lately about the newest hybrids of peonies, which are the Itoh Hybrid Peonies. Itoh hybrid peonies have a lot of strong qualities; however, traditional herbaceous peonies have tremendous value and qualities as well. For some gardeners, the traditional herbaceous peonies will be what is needed to enhance our gardens; for others, Itoh hybrid peonies will work better. If you are lucky, you will have room for both herbaceous peonies and Itoh hybrid peonies.
Itoh peonies are a cross between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies.
Itoh peonies have many of the same qualities as herbaceous peonies like large, showy, and fragrant blooms. Like herbaceous peonies, these Itoh hybrid peonies go dormant during the winter months, where the leaves and stems will die back to the ground. The characteristics Itoh peonies get from their other parent, the tree peony, include their sturdy stems, which prevent them from being droopy after heavy rain. Itoh hybrid peonies also bloom later in the season and typically start to bloom when the herbaceous peonies are finishing their blooms for the season. The bloom time of Itoh hybrid peonies is also a bit longer than that of herbaceous peonies. Growing 2-3’ tall with a similar spread, Itoh peonies will take up about the same amount of space in your garden as herbaceous peonies.