Peonies are a beloved perennial garden plant due to their stunning flowers, which have a wonderful fragrance. Their fleeting, delicate beauty makes them sought after for wedding bouquets. A person planning a wedding or choosing new border plants to establish may wonder about when peonies are in season.
Peony season lasts from late spring to early summer, though different cultivars will bloom at other times. Though they bloom for only 7-10 days, by choosing a variety of cultivars with varying times of bloom, you can have a peony season that extends for almost six weeks.
Gardeners will often want to have a variety of plants that bloom across different seasons, and the perennial border plant, the peony, is a stunning choice, with its large striking flowers and deep green foliage. Perennial plants, once established, will put out new flowers every year, ensuring a garden rich with color.
Related: Are Peonies Poisonous?
When Are Peonies In Season?
Depending on location and variety, peonies will blossom from late in the spring through to early summer. These days nurseries will label their cultivars, showing which dates they will be expected to bloom. Most peonies do well with full sun and need cold winters to get the best bud formation.
With some careful planning and a mix of early, mid, and late-season peonies, gardeners can extend their peony blooming season throughout the entire six-week range. Once these plants are established, they will need little maintenance and provide stunning flowers every year.
Gardeners in cooler zones may find that their peony blooming season is more extended, while gardeners in the South will do better to choose early-season peonies, which will flower before the weather becomes too warm.
When To Plant Peonies
The three main types of peonies are Herbaceous, Tree, and Intersectional and each has a different flowering time. Herbaceous is the most well-known and does best in hardiness zones 3-8. Tree peonies prefer zones 4-9, and Intersectional are hybrids made by cross-pollinating Herbaceous and Tree Peonies.
Plant peonies in the fall, a minimum of six weeks before the ground freezes. Peonies like full sun and well-draining soil. For the best results, peonies will need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day and shelter from the wind.
Peonies do not do well when transplanted, so gardeners must take care when choosing a site.
If peonies are planted in spring due to delays, they will take approximately a year to establish and catch up to plants set in place during the fall.
What Types of Peonies To Plant
To ensure a spread of blooming season for these short-lived floral displays, it’s best to have a mix of cultivars.
Peonies range in color from whites and pale pinks and yellows, to deep rich carmines. Varieties may have single layers of petals, semi-double, fully double, chrysanthemum type, and may be unscented or highly fragrant. With over 3000 varieties, it may be overwhelming to decide.
Below is a rough guide to different seasonal bloom types, but gardeners should consult a garden zone guide for better accuracy, such as the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
Early season peonies can bloom from very early spring to late spring.
- Paeonia ‘Athena’ is a reliable hybrid peony with dark green foliage. This very early season peony has creamy white petals with a pink base.
- Paeonia ‘Claire de Lune’ is a very popular early-season hybrid peony. It has creamy yellow petals around a heart of golden stamens and contrasting reddish stems.
- Paeonia ‘Early Scout’ is the winner of the American Peony Society Gold Medal. With its fern-like leaves and dark crimson flowers, this very early season Hybrid peony is reliable and a vigorous bloomer.
- Paeonia ‘Golden Glow’ is another recipient of the American Peony Society Gold Medal. Golden Glow is a long-stemmed hybrid with cup-shaped scarlet-orange blooms. This striking peony is also a very early-season flower.
- Paeonia ‘Red Spider’ is a peony with large rose-red flowers, with spectacular double petals around a heart of red stamens. This hybrid Dwarf blooms heavily in early spring.
The mid-season peonies will bloom in the middle weeks after the flowers on the early season peonies have begun to die off.
- Paeonia ‘Kansas’ is an award-winning and showy peony with large double blossom flowers in a rich watermelon red. An early mid-season plant with intense color and glossy dark leaves.
- Paeonia ‘Henry Bockstoce’ is a red double peony with giant, red flowers packed with petals. This fragrant Hybrid is an early mid-season peony and makes an excellent cut flower.
- Paeonia ‘Julia Rose’ is a soft pink Intersectional peony, with single or double blossoms which begin as cherry red buds that slowly change color as they open. These mid-season peonies produce profusely and can have a range of colorful flowers on a single bush.
- Paeonia ‘Pink Derby’ has large double blossoms, with the bright pink outside petals surrounding a dense heart of light pink or cream petals. This peony is a mid-season variety that flowers heavily and may need some staking due to its many flowers.
- Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’ is a yellow Intersectional peony with large golden-yellow flowers. This late mid-season peony is a profuse blooming variant and is much prized by gardeners.
Late-season peonies are the last to flower and will bring stunning color to the early summer garden.
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Dinner Plate’ is named for its large 7 inch wide flowers. These delicate pink peonies are double blossoms that resemble roses. These late-season long-stemmed peonies have a delicate fragrance and make for excellent cut flowers.
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Dr Jekyll’ is a distinctive Japanese peony with dark red petals surrounding a heart of red stamens tipped a creamy white. This herbaceous late-season peony is low-maintenance and is ideal for borders and informal hedges.
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nippon Beauty’ has deep red petals around gold-edged red stamens. This late-season heavy bloomer is very popular and retains its deep color even in hotter climates.
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Pink Parfait’ provides large soft pink flowers with a ruffled multi-layer set of petals. This late-season peony is low maintenance, and if cut while still in bud, the cut flowers may last week or more in the vase.
- Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sword Dance’ is an impressive Japanese variety with deep magenta petals cupped around a center of ruffled gold and crimson staminodes. These late-season peonies will catch the eye of any visitor to the garden.
How To Care For Peonies
To have the best blooms in the spring and early summer seasons, peonies will need a high-potash fertilizer applied as a top dressing in the fall. A high potash fertilizer such as bone meal will encourage the production of flowers.
Peonies need well-drained soil and should not be overwatered.
As soon as flowers begin to fade, deadhead them to encourage the plant to put its resources into new flower buds.
In the fall, cut back herbaceous peonies and remove their foliage. This is to prevent the severe disease botrytis, which causes peonies to wilt and blacken. Botrytis is a fungal disease, and any parts of the plant affected by it should be cut off and discarded separately from your compost to prevent the spread.