Today, gardeners who love peonies can grow so many varieties, including the common garden peonies their grandmothers grew. They can also cultivate hardy peony hybrids such as tree peonies and intersectional peonies. And thanks to the internet, old-fashioned fernleaf peonies are easier to find.
These sensational peony plants have all the charm of Grandma's herbaceous peonies plus a few added bonuses.
Double & single bloom peonies
Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) aren't actually trees. They're shrubs that produce woody stems, and they have quite a few advantages over herbaceous peonies.
Unlike herbaceous varieties, tree peonies don't die back to the ground, so they add structure to the garden year round.
Tree peonies also bloom earlier than herbaceous peonies, and their flowers are larger and available in a wider variety of colors than the standard peony's whites and pinks. Paeonia suffruticosa blossoms may be yellow, purple, maroon or green. Some are single petaled, some double petaled and some have centers in contrasting colors like herbaceous Japanese perennial peonies. Many produce fragrant blooms.
Although they grow slowly, taking decades to reach their full height, tree peonies are quite long lived. Some specimens in China are believed to be over 200 years old.
Tree Peonies to Try in Your Garden
The 'Yachiyotsubaki' tree peony is hardy in Zones 3-9, producing enormous soft pink flowers up to ten inches in diameter in late spring. It grows best in full sun or partial shade, and may reach five feet tall.
The tree peony 'Choujyuraku' is hardy in Zones 4-9 and may reach heights of up to five feet. It grows well in full sun or part shade and produces lavender flowers with yellow centers in late spring/early summer.
Hardy in Zones 4-6, 'Shima Daijin' produces purple flowers in mid-spring and does well in both full sun and partial shade. It ordinarily reaches heights anywhere from four to six feet.
Arranging Lots of Gorgeous Cut Peonies
This late-spring bloomer produces eight to ten-inch dark pink blooms and grows up to five feet tall. It's hardy in Zones 3-9 and takes full sun or part shade.
'Yaezakura' is another hardy double-petaled tree peony. It produces flowers with golden yellow centers that contrast with its "Very Double Cherry" petals.
'Kinshi's' ruffled double-petal blooms resemble herbaceous "bomb" peonies. Mature shrubs can produce flowers measuring up to 10-inches across.
Like all peonies, 'Yaezakura' and 'Kinshi' are deer resistant. Because they are tree peonies, they are also long-lived, slow-growing shrubs that reach just 4 to 5 feet high over time.
Each blooms from May to June, potentially producing hundreds of flowers at maturity. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-9, they can withstand sub-zero temperatures. Although they'll perform well in part shade, they need 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.
The intersectional peony hybrid is a cross between the tree peony and the traditional herbaceous peony, and it's super hardy.
Sometimes intersectionals are called Itoh hybrids after their first hybridizer, Toichi Itoh, who crossed the white herbaceous peony Paeonia lactiflora 'Kakoden' and the yellow hybrid tree peony Paeonia x lemoinei in 1948.
Intersectionals You'll Love
Like tree peonies, intersectionals are vigorous growers that produce dense, sturdy foliage. Like herbaceous peonies, they die back to the ground at the end of the growing season and emerge in spring. More cold hardy than tree peonies, intersectionals perform well in Zones 2-8.
The cultivar ‘Julia Rose’ is a gardener favorite. Its blossoms, which are sweetly fragrant, open in late spring/early summer. Although a deep rose color at first, they quickly change to a pretty peach and then turn a mellow yellow accented by peach and pink streaks. Gorgeous and deer resistant!
'Yellow Crown' is a fragrant, deer-resistant tree peony that grows between two and three feet tall. In late spring/early summer, it produces yellow semi-double blossoms that may be streaked with red. 'Yellow Crown' blooms may be up to eight inches in diameter and are lovely in cut flower arrangements.
'Sequestered Sunshine' grows about three feet tall and produces large bright yellow flowers in late spring. In hot weather it may wilt, so give it extra water.
'Kopper Kettle' has all the features for which intersectionals are known--strong stems, cold hardiness and gorgeous bloom color. It's also a relatively tall shrub, reaching up to 4-feet high. Its sweet-smelling blossoms will last for weeks in arrangements. 'Kopper Kettle's' blooms open in late spring/early summer. Because of its many desirable characteristics, this Itoh hybrid is highly sought-after, and it can be somewhat difficult and expensive to acquire.
'First Arrival' is another intersectional peony hybridized by Anderson. Like others of its type, it's a hardy, vigorous grower; however, it's the deep lavender color of its fragrant semi-double flowers that make it truly unique.
Fernleaf peonies (Paeonia tenuifolia) are hardy in USDA Zones 3-8, but they're difficult to propagate and rarely seen at garden centers. Like all peonies, fernleafs are cold hardy, and they like well-drained soil and sun (at least 6 hours a day).
Unlike other types of peonies, their foliage is feathery and delicate--hence the familiar name "fernleaf." Paeonia tenuifolia is also shorter than other peony varieties, reaching just 15 to 20 inches high.
Fernleafs bloom early and have dark red blossoms that are either single or double petaled. Despite their rarity, they are easy to grow.
Easy Fernleafs to Grow
The single fernleaf (P. tenuifolia) has deep red single-petaled flowers.
Double fernleaf ('Rubra Plena' or 'Flora Plena') is pictured right. It looks exactly like the single fernleaf save that it produces masses of double blossoms.
'Merry Mayshine' is a fern leaf hybrid that produces 5-inch bloodred flowers on sturdy, dark green foliage. It grows upright up to 24 inches tall and produces copious blooms in early spring. It won the American Peony Society's Award of Landscape Merit.
'Early Bird' is a dwarf hybrid with single, bright red flowers on fernleaf foliage. A cross between the P. tenuifolia and P. veitchii woodwardii, 'Early Bird' isn't a true fernleaf, but it sure looks like one. It blooms in early spring.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 16, 2015:
Glad you enjoyed them, torrilynn. Thanks for commenting.
torrilynn on May 16, 2015:
i like the different types of flowers and i like to view different pictures of them as well. thanks for the hub.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 13, 2015:
I love them, too. The smell so good! Glad you stopped by, Sallybea.
Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on May 13, 2015:
Gorgeous flowers. I have few peonies which are about to flower. Just stunning. I love these flowers. Thanks for sharing this beautiful hub.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on October 25, 2011:
Thanks for commenting, Kerlyn. Those peonies are Japanese. In fact, there are many Japanese perennial peonies out there--and they're gorgeous.
kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on October 25, 2011:
This hub is just lovely, just like all the other hubs you have. I don't see too many peonies in my place so it's really fun seeing them in pics! BTW, Kinshi, Yaezakura and Koruryu-nishiki sounded really Japanese. And about the 200-yer old specimens in China, gee, they're older than humans! Amazing!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on August 04, 2011:
Thanks, Minnetonka Twin. They really are gorgeous, aren't they!
Linda Rogers from Minnesota on July 31, 2011:
What a fun hub showcasing differen't types of Peonies. These beautiful flowers just make you smile :-)
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 27, 2011:
Thanks, howcurecancer! I'm glad you stopped by.
Elena@LessIsHealthy on May 26, 2011:
I like so much the photos! One vote up for an awesome hub.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 26, 2011:
Of course, RTalloni. And I'll do the same if you don't mind. When I searched for links, I didn't see yours, but I'll look again. Awesome! Thanks, DF
RTalloni on May 26, 2011:
Thanks for highlighting these peonies. So many lovely ones to choose from, but this is helpful. Voted up.
Would like to link this hub to mine on peonies, if you have no objection. Thanks!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 25, 2011:
I know what you mean, dearabbysmom! Isn't that just the way it goes? I never like anything that's on sale, and when I enter a shop, it's always the most expensive item that catches my eye first. Should have been a millionaire! Take care, DF
dearabbysmom from Indiana on May 25, 2011:
As soon as I saw the photo of "kopper kettle" I knew I wanted that exact one! What a gorgeous shade and blossom structure. And it is so me to hone right in on the one that is "somewhat difficult and expensive to acquire"! Beautiful hub, up and awesome.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 25, 2011:
Who doesn't love peonies? Thanks so much for the feedback, Q--and hope you find the hub useful in future. Take it easy! DF
quester.ltd on May 25, 2011:
Peonies - another favorite!
Good job - AGAIN!
voted up, useful, beautiful and a bookmark
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 24, 2011:
Thanks, joyfuldesigns. I just love peonies, too. The blooms are just incredible. Glad you commented. Take care, DF
Valerie Garner from Washington State on May 24, 2011:
Great hub. I've never heard of intersectional peonies before.
I had a tree peony at my last house, although I didn't know which variety, it had amazing, massive blooms that were so impressive. You don't hear much about them, so it was great to see your hub.