Peonies… Everything you ever wanted to know, and much more!

Where are peonies grown?

Peonies are native to Europe and Asia, but today they are sold all over the world. One of the little known facts about peonies is that even today, if you’re lucky, you can still find them growing in the wild in certain parts of Europe.

From late October through to December each year Peonies are available from Fig & Bloom  You’ll find soft pink Peonies in our popular “Paris” design and we also sell Coral Peonies in various sizes. Visit out our online store to send flowers to Sydney and send flowers to Melbourne.

Peonies have been cultivated in China for more than a millennium, where they are called “sho yu“. The English translation is “most beautiful” – no wonder so many people have fallen head over heels for this beautiful flower!

They grow best during cold winters, and in warmer climates peonies often fail to bloom. If you live somewhere hot, your flowers have most likely been imported.

Fig & Bloom Peonies

 

When are peonies in season?

Peonies are “perennials” which means that they live for more than two years. The term is used to contrast shorter-lived bienniels and annuals, but it’s also used to distinguish plants with little woody growth from trees and shrubs (also technically perennials).

As herbaceous perennials, peonies grow and bloom over the spring and summer. They die back every autumn and winter, then spring to life again (in Spring!) from their rootstock. However, there is actually a much rarer type of peony that you haven’t seen before – Tree Peonies! These woody shrubs grow much like rose bushes and there strong woody stems support large blossoms. In fact, stumbling upon a Peony tree, adventurer Marco Polo said they looked like “roses as big as cabbages”.

Peonies and Marble

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What colours do peonies come in?

Peonies are available in every colour except blue. The most common hues, however, are pink, white and yellow. The yellow variety is commonly used by New York floral designers, but it has not been as popular in Australia.

 White Peonies on Bicycle

How many varieties of peonies are there?

There are approximately 30 species in total. However, all these species fall into fewer recognisable varieties. Herbaceous peonies, the sort that springs back each year from the same rootstock, are the most common and oldest variety of peony. Florists typically only use the herbaceous variety in arrangements due to there long and elegant stems. Tree peonies have much woodier stems that don’t work as well in flower arrangements.

Singles

Singles are a variety of peony that features a row of guard petals surrounded by a rich centre of stamens. They are simple and elegant in appearance.

Doubles

Doubles are the most popular variety of peony in Australia. These beautiful blooms transform every last stamens and carpels into petals. Widely loved for their full-bodied appearance and strong fragrance, these beautiful blooms feature remarkably dense and round clusters of petals.

Wondering what a “stamen” or “carpel” is? Stamens are the pollen producing parts of a flower, and carpels are the part of the flower anatomy that make the seeds. Carpels are essentially the female reproductive organ of a flower.

Semi-Doubles

Semi-Double peonies feature many layers of petals. They are very similar to Double Peonies, but all not all of their stamens and carpels transform into petal-like formations. You can identify a Semi-Double Peony by the ring of colourful stamens that remains in the centre after full bloom.

Japanese

You can’t mistake Japanese Peonies for any other variety, they are truly unique! The stamens and filaments of this beautiful peony variety become enlarged and cluster in the centre, and as the flower blooms, it’s body divides into two clearly separate sections. A protruding centre of stamens and filaments which is surrounded by a bowl of guard petals. Often the colours of a Japanese Peony will vary between the centre section and the surrounding, giving it a beautiful two-toned appearance.

Bombs

Another very popular variety of peony, “Bombs” resemble Doubles in the way all their stamens transform into petal-like structures. You can tell the difference between bombs and doubles by their overall shape, Bombs look much more like a softball or pompom. They feature an explosion petaloids surrounded by a flat layer of guard petals.

Itohs

Itoh Peonies are named after their creator Toichi Itoh. These elegant “hybrid” blooms promise the best of both worlds. Itoh Peonies feature the large beautiful blooms of tree species with quick-growing nature of herbaceous peonies.

 

Which varieties of peonies are most fragrant?

Just as it’s important not to judge a book by a cover, you shouldn’t judge a peony by its petals! Not all peonies are created equal and some are definitely more fragrant than others. Doubles tend to be most fragrant, which is great as they are most widely available in Australia. There also tends to be variation between colours of Peony, with pinks and whites being more fragrant than maroon or yellow.

Peonies in a Bouqet

 

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How big do peonies grow?

Peonies can grow INCREDIBLY LARGE, as big as 10 inches in diameter. Like roses the size of cabbages! Tree peonies tend grow larger blooms as their strong wooden stems can support the increased weight of the flower head.

girl holding large bouquet of peonies

large peony flower
peonies from fleur

 

 

How long do peonies last after they start blooming?

One of the best things about this bloom is getting to watch them slowly explode from tight little buds into immense and intricate blooms. Provided your flowers are fresh and locally grown, not frozen or imported, you can expert 5 to 8 days of bliss watching them enter full bloom.

 Peonies in a Chanel box

Can I do anything to make my peonies last longer?

Peonies, like any other flower, will last longer in a vase if you change the water regularly (every 3 days is good). The cleanliness of the water is also crucial.

Truth is that the biggest impact on the life of your flowers is outside your control. First, it’s important to only buy peonies that are grown locally. When you buy imported flowers, often they will have been kept at freezing temperatures to extend their life. And like all flowers, it’s important that your florist has conditioned them for you buy then. Conditioning peonies involves removing all the leaves, cutting their stems at an angle so they can easily draw water, and sitting them in hot water to encourage them to bloom. Nothing is worse than buying peonies that fail to bloom!

Tia Fox with Peonies

 

Can I grow peonies at home?

Yes! Don’t let their delicate and elegant appearance fool you, Peonies are in fact very hardy plants. They are easy to grow at home as long as you live in an appropriately cool climate. They don’t need much care and can survive through very harsh winters. Once established in your garden, peonies will continue yielding beautiful fresh blooms each year for many years to come. Like roses, peony plants can live a very long time and in fact might even outlive you. Peonies are known to live up to 100 years in some cases.

The Flower Expert offers these great tips for growing peonies at home:

  • Planted in early autumn, or spring for grown peonies.
  • Plant the tuber in a well prepared bed, working compost or peat moss into the soil.
  • Dig a hole approximately eighteen inches wide and 18 inches deep for each tuber.
  • Space the holes so that the plants will be at least 3 feet apart. Fill the hole about half full of soil.
  • Mix in a handful of a balanced fertilizers, such as 5-10-5 at this time.
  • Plant the garden tuber with the uppermost eye not more than 2 inches below the ground surface.
  • A tuber planted too deeply will have difficulty producing blooms. Put a little soil around the tuber and water thoroughly.
  • Then fill the hole with the remaining soil, and press down firmly.
  • Water again to settle the tuber.
  • Plant a tree peony tuber with 4-5 inches of soil covering the graft.

 Girl Picking Peonies

Do Peonies have any symbolic meaning?

Having been cultivated in China for more than a thousand years, it is not surprising that Peonies do have symbolic meaning. In fact, peonies themselves are floral symbol of China!

Peonies also have symbolic meaning when it comes to marriage. They symbolise good fortune and a happy marriage and are the 12th wedding anniversary flower.

tia fox peonies 2

 

Are peonies used for any medical purposes?

Chinese ancients believed that peonies could relieve headaches, help calm asthma symptoms and alleviate the pain of childbirth. Actually, Peonyroot is one of the oldest traditional Chinese remedies for conditions like convulsion. These days, however, this bloom really only have one medicinal purpose – bringing fragrance and happiness!

Peonies photos by Aimee Taruilli

 

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2 Replies on Peonies… Everything you ever wanted to know, and much more!

  • Christa Becker says:

    loved the article on peonies. Nevertheless it fails to instruct how to continue to care during the following years, especially during the challenging hot and dry summers of Melbourne. Mine has survived over aproxm. 5 years but not really thrived. It had finally 2 flower buds this spring. Would love to find out how to properly care for this so much loved flower.
    Thanks, Christa

    • Amy says:

      Hi Christa, they may be planted too deeply, the crown only needs to be 5cm below ground otherwise it prohibits flowering. They also like at least half a day of sun (but don’t move them unless you really need to – they hate being disturbed). Fertilize well in late winter/ early spring before they come out of dormancy (chicken manure is good). Good luck!

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