Paeonia obovata
Common Name: woodland peony 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Paeoniaceae
Native Range: Eastern temperate Asia
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White, red, purple
Sun: Part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Easily grown in rich, fertile, medium moisture soils in part shade. Add compost as needed before planting. Each plant will flower for approximately 7-10 days. 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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Paeonia obovata, a herbaceous peony, is native to forested areas in Siberia, Manchuria, China and Japan. It has white to rose-purple blooms. Plants with pure white blooms are often sold in commerce as P. obovata var. alba. This is a small shrubby plant that, each year, will typically grow to 18-24” tall by mid-spring, bloom, display attractive foliage throughout the summer and early fall, and then die to the ground after frost. Single, white or rose-purple, cup-shaped blooms (to 3” diameter) with yellow center stamens appear in mid-season (usually May in St. Louis). Blooms are mildly fragrant. Blooms give way to seed receptacles which split open when ripe (late summer) to reveal attractive glossy black seeds on red stalks. Biternate, gray-green foliage is divided into oval to broad-elliptic leaflets, with terminal leaflets being obovate as indicated by the specific epithet. Leaflets of this species increase in size from point of flowering to point of seed maturity. This species is very similar to P. japonica which is also a woodland species that is native to Siberia and China.

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 egg-shaped being broader at the uppermost end referring to the foliage.


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. Blooms do not need staking or other support.


This is a compact woodland peony that is best suited to open woodland or shade gardens or to shaded areas of the border. It also could be effective as a low herbaceous hedge or edger. Flowers are extremely showy, and foliage can remain attractive throughout the growing season either alone or in combination with other flowering/foliage shade perennials such as hostas.