Paeonia lactiflora 'Raspberry Sundae'
Common Name: fernleaf peony
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Paeoniaceae
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 2.50 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.50 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Pink and white with raspberry crests in the center
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant, Good Cut
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Easily grown in rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plants need abundant moisture during the early part of the growing season. Plants appreciate some part afternoon shade in hot summer climates. Add compost as needed before planting. Rootstock buds (eyes) should be planted about 2” below the soil surface. Each plant will flower for approximately 7-10 days. P. lactiflora is a late blooming species (May-early June). Peony bloom time in the garden can be extended to about 6 weeks (late April-early June) by growing a combination of early, midseason and late blooming cultivars. Remove spent flowers after bloom. Cut foliage to the ground and remove from the garden in fall after frost. Plants are long-lived, do not need to be divided and can be left undisturbed for years. Plants need a cold winter dormant season. Best performance typically occurs in USDA Zones 5-7, but plants often perform well in the northern parts of Zone 8. Cover root areas with mulch in winter, especially in climates where snow cover is minimal. Named cultivars will not come true from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Paeonia lactiflora, commonly known as common garden peony or Chinese peony, is an erect, clump-forming, shrub-like, herbaceous perennial that typically grows to 20-30” tall on stems tinged with red. It is classified as a late-blooming species, featuring flowers in mid- to late spring and continuing attractive foliage throughout the summer and early fall. Stems die to the ground after frost. This species is native to central Asia, ranging from eastern Siberia to Mongolia to eastern Tibet to northern China. It has been grown in China since the 7th century for appreciation of its ornamental flowers. It was introduced into North America in the 1800s. Dark green compound leaves 8-12” long have 9 elliptic leaflets with irregular margins. Leaves may turn rusty orange in fall. Cup or bowl shaped flowers (3-5” across) with 8-10 white, pink or crimson petals typically feature a conspicuous center boss of yellow stamens. Some double-flowered cultivars are available. Flowers of most cultivars are fragrant. Fruits consist of horizontally spreading follicles that split open at maturity. Plants have thickened tuberous roots.

Genus name comes from the Greek name for Paeon, physician of the gods and reputed discoverer of the medicinal properties of plants in this genus.

Specific epithet means with milk-white flowers.

'Raspberry Sundae' is a herbaceous (soft stemmed) peony cultivar. It is a shrubby plant that, each year, will typically grow to 3' tall by mid-spring, bloom, display attractive foliage throughout the summer and early fall, and then die to the ground after frost. Large, fragrant, double flowers which are pink and creamy white with raspberry crests toward the centers, bloom in late season (usually May in the St. Louis area). Glossy green foliage is divided into oval to lance-shaped leaflets. Excellent cut flower. (C.G. Klehm, 1968).

Problems

Peonies are considered to be relatively pest free. Botyrtis blight and Phytopthora blight are sometimes problems. Ants on peony buds are common and totally harmless. If plants do not flower, possible causes include: (1) planted too deep or too shallow, (2) planted in too much shade, (3) late frost killed flower buds or (4) plant is too young or has been recently moved or disturbed. Large, semi-double blooms may need staking or other support because they tend to arch toward the ground in the best of weather and can be literally driven into the ground by a hard rain. Potential insect pests include thrips, scale, mealybugs, bulb mites and hoplia beetles.

Garden Uses

Peonies are a standard of the perennial border, both as specimens and in groups. They are long-lived perennials, and are effective as accents or herbaceous hedges along fences, sidewalks, driveways or walls. Flowers are extremely showy, and foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season either alone or as a frame or backdrop for other perennials.