When do peony bloom?

When you’re planning a flower garden, it’s important to know when your flowers will bloom, especially if you want to make sure that you have a continuous show of color in your garden beds. We’ve researched the subject of peonies and found out some interesting things about their bloom time to share in this post.

Peonies bloom from late spring through early summer for a period of six to eight weeks. The blooms themselves only last for seven to 10 days.

There are a lot of factors that can determine when your peony plant will bloom. Keep reading for all the details so you can grow a beautiful flower garden full of amazing color all season long.

What Influences Bloom Time in Peonies?

The exact timing of the blooms and length of bloom season depend on a few things:

  • Species of peony – Tree, woodland, herbaceous or intersectional (the Itoh hybrid)
  • The cultivar of herbaceous peony – Early, midseason or late variety
  • Local climate – Peonies bloom longer in cooler climates, and the timing of blooming depends on the climate in your area

Tips for Extending the Bloom Time

The main species of peonies are:

  • Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)
  • Herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – the common garden or Chinese peony
  • Woodland peony (Paeonia japonica) – also an herbaceous species but distinct from the common garden peony that is what the term herbaceous peony usually refers to
  • Intersectional (the Itoh hybrid)

The woodland peonies are the first to bloom in early spring. They’re followed about a week later by the tree peonies. One to two weeks later the herbaceous peonies start to bloom. Although the blossoms themselves only last seven to 10 days, you can extend the bloom season by planting cultivars that bloom at different times: early, midseason, and late. That way the blooms can continue for four to six weeks.

The intersectional peonies, which are a hybrid cross between tree and herbaceous peonies, start blooming near the end of the time the herbaceous varieties are blooming. Since the buds don’t all open at the same time on the intersectionals, they can continue blooming for up to three weeks.

One thing to keep in mind when planning your garden is that peonies don’t like to be moved and don’t transplant well. If you do end up moving them, they won’t bloom again for another two to three years.

To sum up, if you have all four species in your garden – woodland, tree, herbaceous and intersectional – you can have peonies blooming for eight weeks or more!

The Role of Local Climate

Peonies do best in zones 3-8, although some cultivars can live and do well in zones 2 or 9. They bloom after the last frost and when daytime temperatures are 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peonies bloom longer in cooler climates. Of course, if you live in a warmer climate, there’s not much you can do about it unless you want to move!

Where you live also affects when your peonies begin blooming. The bloom season is still the same length, it just starts and ends at a different time depending on your local climate.

A Trick for Extending the Bloom Season

One way to extend the time you have blooms is to cut your peonies in the bud stage and refrigerate them, then take them out whenever you want a bouquet! That won’t help the bloom time in your garden, of course, but you can continue to enjoy their beauty and fragrance for weeks.

To store them in the refrigerator, cut them when the buds are starting to show color and are soft. Strip the leaves off the stem and wrap them completely in clear plastic wrap and seal both ends. Lay them flat in the refrigerator. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three months.

When you’re ready for a bouquet, cut off the stem end and place it in lukewarm water in a cool place until it’s rehydrated. Their vase life is about one week.

Do Peonies Bloom All Summer Long?

Unfortunately, no, peonies don’t bloom all summer long. Intersectional varieties bloom after the herbaceous varieties and the bloom time can extend for up to three weeks since their buds don’t all open at the same time. If you want to have peonies in bloom all summer, you will need to plant varieties that come into bloom at different times.

Do Peonies Bloom in Their First Year?

Most sources say peonies don’t bloom the first year after planting. It usually takes two or up to three years before they bloom when planted in the fall, longer if planted in the spring.

However, in their book “American Horticultural Society Northeast SmartGarden Regional Guide,” published in 2003, authors Rita Pelczar and Trevor Cole say, “Planted with the crown buds 1-3 in (2.5-8 cm) below soil level, they should bloom the following year.”

When Do Peonies Bloom in Different Parts of The Country?

Here’s an idea of when peonies bloom in different parts of the country:

  • California – tree peonies bloom from late February to early or mid-March; herbaceous varieties mid-May to early June; intersectionals bloom in early May
  • Texas – tree peonies bloom from early February to late March; herbaceous varieties begin to bloom around April 1st
  • Michigan – herbaceous peonies bloom late May to mid-June; tree peonies bloom in late April to early May
  • Massachusetts – mid-May through June

Peonies need a winter chill to bloom and it’s best if the daily temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least six weeks.

In zones 8 and 9, plant only early and midseason varieties of herbaceous peonies as it will be too hot for the late bloomers by the time they’re ready to bloom. Tree peonies do better than herbaceous varieties in hotter areas.

What About Ants?

You may have heard – or seen – that peonies can attract ants once they begin to bloom. This is true! But that’s a good thing. The ants are attracted to the nectar and in their attempts to get at it, they help the buds to open. So essentially, they’re helping you have the blooms you want!

Not only that, but they keep harmful bugs away. So ants are your friends when it comes to your peony blooms.

Peonies in Your Garden

Peonies bloom early to begin the spring and summer flowering season, they can last for more than 100 years (longer than the gardener!), and they don’t like to be moved, so they make a good foundation for your garden plan. They’ll reward you well with many years of fragrant beauty.

There can be no doubting that Peonies are one of the most beautiful flowers spring has to offer. They have light pastel shades, big bountiful blooms and look amazing in a bouquet. However, for crucial events like weddings (where they are still one of the top flowers of choice for bridal bouquets), having a few tricks on hand to ensure your peonies bloom on time for the big day can be essential. After all, closed peonies on someone’s big day just won’t do.

Like many cut flowers, peonies are delivered in their freshest state possible meaning they will often arrive to their destination closed to guarantee they’ll last longer in their vase or bouquet. However, arriving closed doesn’t need to spell disaster, even when having the best looking blooms counts the most as like many other unbloomed stems, there are a few tricks that can be employed to coax them out of their slumber.

Tips and tricks to make Peonies open faster:

Trim additional foliage

Like all plants, the more leaves there are the more energy is expended on their upkeep, which directs some of it away from the buds. That’s why it’s a good idea to trim away any extraneous greenery from your stems when they arrive. That way once they’ve settled in their vase with some water and food they’ll dedicate all their energy to the petals.

Give them a little warmth and food

Like many cut flowers, a little tepid water and flower food can do wonders to make your blooms open faster. When they arrive place them immediately in some slightly warm (but not hot water) and add your sachet of flower food, which should come with your delivery. In a few hours your peonies will start to look a lot more alive and open.

Cut their stems at an angle

This is another catchall trick to make stubborn closed flowers open. When flowers arrive you should always cut the stems and at a 45º angle to allow the blooms to absorb as much water as they can, as fast as possible. As the plants no longer have roots this is the best way to make sure their cut ends don’t seal up and hamper absorption. Re-cutting the stems every 2-3 days will also help ensure the longest vase life possible.

Give them a (gentle) tap on the head

It may sound crazy, but one of the tips sometimes given by experienced florists to hurry your peonies along is to give them a little tap on the top of their heads against a hard surface. Obviously it should only be a gentle tap just to stimulate the petals.

Keep them somewhere cosy

Peony flowers are plants, so naturally they’re designed to respond to sunlight. This fact can be your ally as placing them in bright, warm room for a short while can give them the encouragement they need to bloom that little bit faster.

Give them a little cover

Alternatively you can try covering the bouquet with a plastic bag for a short while. This allows naturally emitted ethylene gas to stimulate the opening of the blooms.

Give them a quick dunking

Just like people, a splash of water on their heads is a great way to wake up your peony blooms. By quickly submerging the flowers in some tepid water for 10-15 seconds every 1 or two hours you’ll be able to give the peonies the push they need to bloom fully.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS: Give them a quick swish in water

If you need your peonies open yesterday and you absolutely can’t wait another minute for their petals to open then there is one final trick you can try. Similar to the previous trick, you can submerge them in water, whilst twisting and swishing the blooms underwater until air bubbles start appearing in the water and the flowers start to open.

Peonies should always be experienced at their best when they arrive as a gift on a special day or to make any home brighter with their bulbous blooms. With these tips and tricks you can always enjoy the wonder of fresh peonies at their most beautiful.

Make your big day extra special or congratulate the happy couple on their wedding day with sumptuous bouquets of premium fresh, roses, lilies gerberas and other blooms that will send a joyful message. Send elegant wedding flowers today to over 100 countries with FloraQueen’s international delivery service.

The Simple Secret to Extending Peony Blooming in Your Garden!

How to Extend Peony Bloom Season in Your Garden

We gardeners have a love affair with peonies. The huge, romantic blooms with their sensual fragrance and luscious colors are a boon to any cold winter garden. Peonies are incredibly long lived plants that need little care and are highly resistant to deer. The one complaint of all peony growers? They want more time to enjoy those fabulous blooms! Let’s see how to make this work!

Peonies bloom for 100 years or more, but the glory of peony blooms lasts just a week to 10 days in your garden. To extend the time that you can enjoy the season of peony blooms in your garden, plant varieties that bloom at different times within the roughly 6-week period of peony blooming. Different peony varieties bloom earlier or later within the peony blooming window, and are labeled as early blooming peonies, mid season blooming peonies and late blooming peonies. This timing is reliable from one year to the next. In Wisconsin, the exact date an “early blooming peony” begins to bloom will be very different from the date the same variety planted in Oregon will bloom. However, they will still bloom before mid and later bloomers planted in the same location. So to extend the peony blooms in your garden, be sure to plant early, mid season and late blooming peonies. You might even want to go so far as the plant earliest, early season, early mid season, mid season, late mid season and late blooming varieties to truly maximize the time you have peonies blooming in your garden every year.

Early Season Blooming Peonies

The first peonies to bloom, known as early blooming peonies, include a glorious selection of colors, flower forms and fragrance. In addition to the traditional pink and white, several luscious coral varieties are all early blooming peonies like Coral Charm, Coral Sunset and Pink Hawaiian Coral. Gardeners in mild winter climates, or where summer heat comes early, should plant early blooming peony varieties, to be sure the plants can fully flower before the heat sets in and shortens the life of the blooms.

Examples of Early Blooming Peonies include: Charlie’s White, Coral Charm, Coral Sunset and Pink Hawaiian Coral.

Early Mid-Season Blooming Peonies

Next, we have the early mid-season blooming peonies, those that flower after the early bloomers listed above, but before the mid-season blooming peonies. These offer a wonderful variety of colors and flower forms in addition to that incredible fragrance!

Early mid-season peonies include: Duchess de Nemours, Festiva Maxima, Gardenia, Gay Paree, Henry Bockstoce, Kansas, Lady Alexandra Duff, Monsieur Jules Elie, Paula Fay, Red Charm, Shirley Temple and Sorbet.

Mid Season Blooming Peonies

The next set of peonis are true mid-season blooming varieties, and contain many cherished heirloom peonies that have graced gardens in America since before the Declaration of Independence!

Mid-season blooming peonies include: Benjamin Franklin, Big Ben, Edulis Superba, Koppius, Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt, Officinalis Alba Plena, Raspberry Sundae, and Victoire de la Marne.

Late Blooming Peonies

Late blooming peonies are best planted in climates where the summer heat waits til July. Many romantic favorites are to be found among the late bloomers, with the extraordinary Peony Sword Dance the last to flower.

Late blooming peony varieties include: Bowl of Beauty, Dr. Alexander Fleming, Felix Crousse, Karl Rosenfeld, Sara Bernhardt, followed by the dramatic Japanese style peony Sword Dance.

Perhaps the short blooming time of peonies is intended to make sure we cherish their exceptional beauty – however fleeting. Surely there are valuable life lessons we can learn from just a single peony plant. But for those who cherish these romantic blooms, one peony is never enough! Will you be planting peonies this fall? Or do you already grow peonies with different blooming times? Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know!

Happy Gardening!

← Previous Post Next Post →


Peony’s a charming lady, she doesn’t like a spot too shady; likes to live out in the light, dressed in red or pink or white. –Elizabeth Gordon

Peony plants are some of the oldest perennials in cultivation. There are woody small shrubs (euphemistically referred to as tree peonies) in addition to the herbaceous perennial types. Herbaceous peonies assume a shrublike stature at 2 to 3 feet in height and width. Their leaves and stalks die to the ground after a killing autumn frost, but the rootstock remains very much alive, ready to send up those telltale red shoots the following April.

In spite of their delicate floral appearance, peony plants are strong, long-lived, and completely cold hardy, perfectly suited to midwestern weather. They resent disturbance and can live for 50 years if provided with their simple requirements. Their size and attractive habit make them suitable companions to all other border plants such as dwarf conifers, bulbs, and both early- and late-blooming perennials. Even though they bloom relatively early (May to early June), their stocky forms and ornamental foliage remain attractive all summer, well into autumn, when their leaves turn red as temperatures dip. At this time they are particularly valuable to late-blooming, prone-to-toppling perennials like asters, that will benefit from the healthy support system provided by the solid peony bushes.

Peonies are classified by the type of their blossoms or the time they bloom. Flowers are single, anemone, Japanese, semidouble, double, or bomb. The single, anemone, and Japanese forms feature large, cupping petals that surround a center of bright yellow stamens (although a few of the Japanese flower centers are light and dark pink). The double forms hide their stamens inside never-ending petals; and the bomb flowers are recognizable by a flat outer row of guard petals, inside of which sits a fat “bomb” of tight petals. The anemone form’s flowers are similar to doubles but the center petals are all narrow. The inner and outer petals are the same color, while the Japanese forms feature flowers with the narrow center petals in a contrasting color to the outer, larger petals. The hybridizing of peonies is an ongoing science, with new introductions marketed every year.

Paeonia ‘Ivory Atlas’

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Do Tell’

Paeonia ‘Charles Burgess’

Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’

Paeonia ‘Kansas’

Paeonia ‘He’s My Star’

Peonies can be grown as specimen plants strategically placed in long or curving borders where they provide early structure as perennials begin to emerge. They can be massed in the back of low borders where they contribute an early showy flower display and then serve as a green backdrop for colorful bulbs, annuals, and perennials. By carefully selecting one single variety and placing plants side by side in a long row, gardeners can create a novel and quite ornamental peony hedge.

To extend the enjoyment of the flowers, choose a few early-, mid- and late-season types so that they don’t all bloom at once. While most colors are in the pink, coral, and red tones, there have been interesting developments in yellow. Consider how you want to use this plant before being swept away by the hundreds available locally and through specialty catalogs. Plant the fragrant ones close to a door or patio or use them as cut flowers. Never cut more than 25 percent of the blossoms from a plant in one season, taking care to cut short stems, leaving as much foliage on the plant as possible.

Plant peonies in the spring as potted plants or in the fall as bare tuberous roots. Cultivate the planting site thoroughly, add compost, and water well. In the fall, set the swollen roots no more than 2 inches below the soil surface. If planted too deeply, the peonies will fail to bloom. Mulch the area over winter just for the first year. Remember to cage your plants when they are 10 to 12 inches tall to support the heavy blossoms.

Peonies are susceptible to a variety of fungal blights that are exacerbated by wet, cool springs. Symptoms include blackened, splotched foliage; dark, dried buds that never open; or streaked stems. Approved fungicides are available and must be applied when the new shoots are 2 to 4 inches tall. Gardeners can reduce the chances of infection by spacing plants far apart, planting in well-drained soil in full sun, practicing good sanitation, and removing all dead foliage from the garden at the end of the season. So little effort for such heart-stopping beauty!

Reasons Why Peonies Fail to Bloom

Peonies are staples in Midwest landscapes. They are easy-to-grow, long-lived, and reliable performers in the garden. However, when they do not bloom well, those of us in extension are often inundated with calls, emails, etc. There are several possible causes for failure to bloom.

If the buds do not appear (which is normally the case) some possible causes are:

1. Planted in too much shade. Peonies need at least 4-6 hours of direct sun to bloom well.

2. Recently divided or transplanted. Peonies that are moved or divided in late summer rarely bloom well, if at all, the following spring. Sometimes it will take 2 to 3 years for plants to re-establish well enough in their new location to bloom well again.

3. Planted too deeply. When planting, position peony buds 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil. Nobody knows how they know if it is 2 inches versus 4 inches, but they do! When a peony is planted too deeply, it may have beautiful foliage, but few (if any) flowers.

4. Fertilized too much. Peonies that receive excessive amounts of nitrogen rarely flower well regardless of site. Nitrogen promotes foliar growth at the expense of flowers.

5. Clumps too large? Some references state that large, old clumps may not bloom well. However, I have seen several large plants in the Midwest that seem to bloom beautifully year after year. I would imagine that a clump would have to be several decades old before it would fail to bloom. If a clump is considered too large or possibly too old, this is easily remedied by dividing the plant in late summer as a means of rejuvenation.

6. Plants are too young. If a clump can be too old – then the possibility exists that it can be too young as well. While most peonies that are sold are not typically grown from seed, there are some avid gardeners that successfully attempt this process. Plants grown from seed take about 4 to 5 years to mature and ultimately bloom.

7. Premature removal of foliage. Removal of the plant foliage in July or August will weaken the plant resulting in fewer flowers.

If buds appear – but fail to open, some other possible causes include:

1. Late freeze. A hard freeze in May (much like the one we had last year) may damage or destroy the flower buds. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often.

2. Other extreme weather conditions. Extremely dry conditions in summer may weaken plants and result in fewer flowers the following season.

3. Fungal diseases. Botrytis blight or other fungal pathogens infrequently attack the flower buds, primarily when conditions are cool and wet. For prevention, the best practices are removing the dead buds in late spring and removing any diseased foliage at the end of the growing season.

4. Insect pests. Also on rare occasions, thrips or other insect pests can damage and distort flower buds and thus reduce flowering. Insecticides are usually ineffective since the damage is often done early in the season.

5. Undernourished. This is another rarity in most Iowa soils. Plants that are growing poorly (weak, spindly, yellowish or “off-color”) are not vigorous enough to bloom (but may set buds). Transplanting into a more favorable location and fertilizing lightly after establishment would be beneficial.

That’s it. The most common reasons peonies fail to bloom are cultural (planting in too much shade and planting too deeply). Remember that peonies are tough and often survive for many years in “not so ideal” sites. However, if they fail to bloom one year – watch out – everyone notices!


White peony.

Alec White Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries

Nurseryman and Peony Grower Alec White explains the difficulties faced when growing peonies and three rules for how to grow the perfect peonies

I’ve had a love affair with peonies for some time now; herbaceous, intersectional and tree peonies. I just love the timeless elegance of them; the colours, the impressive blooms and of course the magnificent fragrance. Every garden deserves peonies and every gardener should include them.

There are many who would be put off growing peonies in their garden because of the relatively short flowering season; they may think that there are better plants which will offer more colour and more value for money. It may be thought that the peony is a difficult plant to grow, but it’s unrivalled in the garden when in flower and is an excellent low maintenance plant, perfect for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

The sheer size of the flower is simply incredible, with many of the intersectional peonies producing flowers the size of dinner plates, with colours ranging from white to yellow, pink to purple and everything in between. There are single, semi-double and double flowers all of which are exceptionally beautiful and that is before you look at the many peonies that are fragrant.

Most peonies are fragrant, with some more so than others. For example, Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ AGM is an exquisite double white flower with a cream centre and the most delightful perfume. A personal favourite of mine are the delicate blush flowers of Paeonia lactiflora ‘Catharina Fontijn’ which produce a delightful yet intense perfume. There are few other plants that can boast such attributes in terms of size and colour of flower that also have fragrance.

Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries

So the peony has scented, impressive and showy flowers and this alone makes it very attractive for the border. What else has this plant to offer? Despite a popularly held view that peonies are delicate and difficult to grow, the truth is that they are very easy to grow and extremely hardy, making them perfect for all gardeners. They will live happily in a decent sized container for some years but ultimately they will be happier in the ground.

There are of course, a few things to remember with peonies but get these right and you are looking at decades (in some cases peonies can live for 60 years) of hassle-free gardening and the finest display of colour and scent that simply gets better with time.

Here are my 3 rules for growing the perfect peonies:

Rule number 1: Remember not to plant your peony too deeply. The tuberous roots must not be planted more than about 2.5cm below the surface. If they are planted any deeper they may give wonderful foliage (some of the intersectional peonies, such as ‘Bartzella’ AGM or ‘Julia Rose’ have finely cut leaves which turn crimson red in the spring and autumn and many of the herbaceous or garden peonies have strong red stems and light green soft foliage) but they simply will not flower.

If you have a peony in the garden and it isn’t flowering, it is probably because it has been planted too deeply or it has been buried when you have diligently mulched your borders. Just wait until the autumn and then, taking care not to damage the buds on the roots, lift your peony and re-plant it at the right depth.

Rule number 2: Plant your peony in a sunny position. Although many varieties will tolerate some shade (for example Paeonia lactiflora ‘White Wings’) if your peony is in heavy shade it will be reluctant to flower well.

Rule number 3: Plant your peony in fertile, free-draining soil. Peonies are not generally too fussy about the soil and are quite happy in chalky or clay soils provided that it is free draining; they don’t like to sit in water in the winter.

Photo: Primrose Hall Nurseries

As you can see, the rules really only apply to planting your peony. Once planted, your peony will be quite content to be left alone. In fact if you have rich, fertile soil you probably don’t need to feed your peony, but if your soil is not so good a balanced, general fertiliser such as Growmore applied in the spring should do the trick. It is also a good idea to cut back and remove the dead leaves in autumn to avoid peony wilt.

Peonies are therefore, relatively low maintenance and reliable performers in the garden. They aren’t going to grow like triffids and take over your garden; most will get to about 80-90cm tall and about 60-80cm wide and of course they will die down in the winter before emerging in the spring to delight you for another season (this does not apply to tree peonies).

In general, peonies do not really suffer from pests and diseases, requiring little care or attention once established. In fact deer and rabbits leave them alone too which makes them ideal in rural gardens. While we are talking about peonies let’s dispel another myth, that peonies don’t like being moved. Subject to rule number 1 (above), carefully lift peonies in the autumn and replant or divide them (remember to keep 3-5 buds on each bit of root that you divide and if you are planting them in a container, don’t overwater them). It’s as easy as that. Honestly, there is no magic to it.

Peonies take time to mature and you must therefore be patient. This takes time and while it may be tempting to purchase a smaller, cheaper plant and wait for it to grow, my advice is to buy a well established peony, one that is at least 3-5 years old or more, to be sure of success in your garden.

The show that peonies put on may be relatively short, but my goodness what a show it is. The peony’s hardiness, low maintenance and longevity are reasons in themselves to spark a love affair, but the sheer beauty and fragrance of the flowers make it thunderbolt city for me.

Alec White is a Nurseryman and author based at Primrose Hall. For more information, click here.

For some simple spring gardening tips, click here.

5 Things You Need to Know If You Want to Grow Your Own Peonies

Alison Miksch

There’s no denying peonies are the IT flower of late. They’re on every magazine, all over Pinterest, and I’m willing to bet, a feature of every spring shower—baby, bridal, or otherwise. But for their ubiquity in garden shops every spring, they’re actually quite the feat to grow every year. They’re the goldilocks of the cut flower world, wanting conditions that are juuuust right. Here’s a few planting pointers so your garden is peony paradise—for you and them.

Cater to your zone.

Peonies like cold winters, and that’s hard to recreate in the South. (They like zones 3 through 7.) But, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Tough selections like the “Festiva Maxima” and “Sarah Bernhardt” can handle the warmer winters, and are great options for Southern gardens.

Give them time.

Both to settle in and then to bloom. Plant in the fall, as they grow better that first year if they have the benefit of being in the soil during winter. Then, don’t expect blooms for two to three years after planting. After that, you could have flowers for decades with the proper care.

WATCH: The Symbolic Meaning of Flowers

Give them space.

When planting, allow no less than four feet between plants, even though they will start small and grow slow. Planting them too close together can lead to “leggy” plants. Plus, plenty of airflow helps with disease prevention.

Sun, sun, sun!

Though they desperately need the cold, they do need to be planted in full-sun down South. Oftentimes, shade in the Southern zones will just result in leggy plants, which means weaker plants.

Buy yourself some time.

If you want the look of well-established peonies but don’t want to wait ten years, it is possible to buy mature plants. Sites like Terra Ceia Farms will sell you a mature plant, which they have raised for the first ten or so years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *