Where to Plant Peonies

Either in full sun or part shade. But, what exactly do these terms mean?

Full Sun

Full sun: an area that gets more than 6 hours of (continuous) direct sunlight each day.

Planting your peonies in full sun generally means that they will bloom somewhat earlier (than the same peonies planted in part shade). However, they will probably also need to be watered more often, and the colours of the blossoms will fade more quickly.

Part Shade

Part shade: an area that gets dappled light and shade throughout the day, or, an area that gets some direct light every day but fewer than 6 hours of (continuous) direct sunlight.

Planting peonies in part shade means that they will probably flower somewhat later, and that they will produce fewer blossoms (than the same peonies planted in full sun). However, the individual blossoms will usually last longer, as will the overall blossoming season, and the flowers will be unlikely to fade much.



When choosing a location, please also take into account the background. If you are planting white or pale pink peonies, they will stand out best against a dark wall or fence. Conversely, if you are planting deep red or maroon peonies, they will look best against a white or pale-coloured wall or fence.


How Far Apart?

Plant peonies at least 2 feet (60 cm) apart — some would say that 3 or 4 feet (100 – 120 cm) is even better. Similarly, plant them at least that distance away from a wall or fence. Peonies need lots of room to grow: a mature peony plant can have a diameter of 3 feet (1 metre), or more.

When to Plant

The best time to plant peonies is very late summer or early fall. This is particularly true of “root stock” (or peony “divisions”, as they are sometimes called). Peony plants which have been grown in a pot can be planted at other times of the year, such as late spring or early summer.



Tree Peony &Herbaceous Peony

Above all, tree Peony is a deciduous shrub and woody plant, while herbaceous peony is kind of tuberous and herbal plant.Tree Peony has wide leaves which front side is slightly green or green yellow, while herbaceous peony leaves are narrow with both sides being black-green.The flowers of tree peony are formed at the top of squid and are mostly one flower each branch ,while the flowers of herbaceous peony come at the top of branches and are multiple.Blooming period is different: tree peony coming out early, but herbaceous peony flowers relatively late.These two plants’ flower season may have a interval about 15 days.Despite flowering period different between tree and herbaceous peonies, there are some similarities in growth habits and characteristics between them.Peonies tolerate both cold and drought. Herbaceous has a strong adaptability, so widely used in garden. When planted together with tree peony, it becomes a good partner of Tree peony in its blank flower season. On the other hand, herbaceous has particularities such as huge flowers, dark green leaves, long and straight stems etc. It is also an excellent material for fresh cut flowers .

Peony Classification-II

Lactiflora Cultivars vs. Herbaceous hybrids

Historically, most varieties of peony sold were cultivars of P. lactiflora. However, these varieties often didn’t have strong enough stems to hold the large blossoms upright. As a result, most of the lactiflora cultivars needed staking. In response to this, the newer herbaceous hybrid peonies were developed. These have stronger stems, so that staking isn’t needed. However, herbaceous hybrids aren’t floriferous; that is, they usually don’t have side buds — they typically produce only one bud per stem.

Examples of Paeonia lactiflora varieties: Angel Cheeks, Ann Cousins, Attar of Roses, Big Ben, Bowl of Beauty, Bowl of Cream, Bu-te, Butter Bowl, Charlie’s White, Doreen, Dr. Alexander Fleming, Duchesse de Nemours, Edulis Superba, Elsa Sass, Fairy’s Petticoat, Fancy Nancy, Félix Crousse, Festiva Maxima, Gardenia, Gay Paree, Gilbert H. Wild, Hermione, Kansas, Krinkled White, Lady Alexandra Duff, Le Charme, Maestro, Miss America, Mister Ed, Monsieur Jules Elie, Mother’s Choice, Mrs. Edward Harding, Mrs. Euclid Snow, Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Myrtle Gentry, Nippon Beauty, Paul M. Wild, Princess Margaret, Raspberry Sundae, Sarah Bernhardt, Sea Shell, Shirley Temple, Sword Dance, Top Brass, Tourangelle, Westerner, White Sands.

Examples of herbaceous hybrids: Athena, Blaze, Buckeye Belle, Claire de Lune, Coral Charm, Coral ‘n Gold, Dandy Dan, Early Scout, Etched Salmon, Flame, Henry Bockstoce, Mahogany, Many Happy Returns, Paula Fay, Pink Hawaiian Coral, Red Charm, Red Red Rose, Roselette, Roy Pehrson’s Best Yellow, Scarlett O’Hara, Showgirl, Walter Mains.

Cultivars of Paeonia lactiflora are often referred to as “Chinese peony”, “garden peony”, “bush peony”, or “herbaceous peony” (the names are used interchangeably in catalogues). Strictly speaking, the term “herbaceous” means that the plant dies down in the fall, and new growth comes up in spring. This is true for most species of the Paeonia genus. It is NOT true, however, for the species which is normally called the Tree Peony.

Peony Classification-I

When peonies are offered for sale, they are sometimes classified by their botanical type. The categories most often seen in nursery catalogues are: (a) species, (b) herbaceous, (c) tree peony, and (d) intersectional. The following tries to clear up what these terms generally mean.


There are somewhere between 35 and 50 different species of peony (i.e. plants belonging to the genus Paeonia). However, most of these botanical species grow wild in Asia, southern Europe, or western North America. Very few of them are culivated and sold commercially. The few that are available are usually not as large and showy as the peonies we see growing in neighbourhood gardens.

When the term “species peony” is used by a nursery or commercial grower, it basically means: “wild peony which we’ve ‘captured’ and made available to you non-explorers because you want something rare and different”. While they are rare, and different from most garden peonies, they are also not as spectacular bloomers.

The ones most often available commercially are: Paeonia anomala subsp. veitchii (formerly known as Paeonia veitchii), Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii (formerly known as Paeonia mlokosewitschii, Paeonia officinalis, Paeonia officinalis mollis (formerly known as Paeonia mollis), Paeonia peregrina, and Paeonia tenuifolia. They are described in more detail in my section on Species Peonies.

Herbaceous peony

The species of peony which is probably most important commercially is the Paeonia lactiflora. This species is native to central and eastern Asia. In particular, it occurs in northern China, and has been cultivated there for perhaps 1,600 years.

There are at least 3,000 registered cultivars (i.e. cultivated varieties) of Paeonia lactiflora (and probably even more which have never been registered or marketed). Most of the peonies sold commercially are either culivars of Paeonia lactiflora, or else hybrids, with some of its genes.

Tree Peony

Tree peonies (Paeonia rockii) have woody stems that lose their leaves in the fall, but the woody stems stay intact.  They tend to bloom earlier and with larger flowers than the herbaceous peony. Despite this, they are generally not as popular as herbaceous peonies, because they are such slow growers. They have been of most commercial interest recently as a source of hybrids, which are called “Intersectional peonies”.

Intersectional Peony

Intersectional Peonies are hybrids; they are derived from a cross between a white Herbaceous Peony (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kakoden’) and a yellow hybrid Tree Peony (Paeonia x lemoinei) carried out in 1948 by Mr. Toichi Itoh. For this reason, they are also known as Itoh hybrids or Itoh peonies.

Intersectionals are valued because they are available in colours that traditional peonies can’t produce — in particular, more intense shades of yellow, peach, and coral.  These plants have the lovely leaf form of the tree peonies, but die to the ground in the winter like herbaceous peonies. The plants are strong and healthy with a nice rounded bush form, but are generally shorter than most bush peonies.  Since they are recent introductions and are still in short supply, they are usually quite expensive.

Examples of some intersectional peony varieties are: Bartzella, Border Charm, Cora Louise, First Arrival, Garden Treasure, Hillary, Julia Rose, Sequestered Sunshine.

International Peony Culture and Tourism Festival

The Third International Peony Culture and Tourism Festival, will be held in Lanzhou New Area, Gansu province of northwest China from 18th May to 2nd June. It’s a great pleasure to appreciate Gansu peony, visit Lingdan Temple, and enjoy Chinese culture. We warmly welcome you to participate in the festival. If you come, please give us a reply and we will arrange in advance. info@china-plants.com