Paeonia officinalis

Common Name: common peony 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Paeoniaceae
Native Range: Europe
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Crimson red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10 where it is best grown in rich, fertile, moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Remove spent flowers after bloom unless viewing the attractive seed pods is desired. 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 officinalis is native to southern Europe. It is a small, somewhat shrubby, herbaceous perennial that typically grows to 2' tall and as wide on erect stems clad with divided leaves. Fragrant flowers bloom in late spring. Foliage remains attractive throughout the summer and early fall, and then dies to the ground after frost. Single, fragrant, cup-shaped, crimson red flowers (to 5" diameter) with yellow center stamens bloom in May. Blooms are mildly fragrant. Cultivated varieties of this species include plants with pink or white (sometimes double) flowers.

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 sold in shops. Often referring to plants that have real or supposed medicinal properties.

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. Blooms typically do not need staking or other support.

Garden Uses

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