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A picture of a Peony


Paeonia spp.

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Also known as

Paeony, Emperor Flower

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt by Mike Bowler (CC BY 2.0)

Full Sun
Easy care
Moderate watering
Frost Hardy


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

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A photo of Peony
A photo of Peony
A photo of Peony
A photo of Peony
A photo of Peony

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Peony Overview

Paeonia - known to most as Peony - is a genus of around 36 herbaceous perennials or bushy deciduous subshrubs. They are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America and have been extensively cultivated in China (where they're known as Emperor Flowers) and Europe since the 15th Century. The ancient Greeks called the peony after Paeon (the physician to the Greek gods). They are classic mixed border plants, and architecturally magnificent. There is a wide variety of cultivars and hybrids with diverse growth habits, flower colours and forms available. Some have won the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit and are included in the “Plants for Pollinators” initiative. Peonies have attractive, large, compound, deeply divided leaves and large, showy, bowl-shaped, often fragrant, flowers. They come in a wide range of colours, including pink, red, yellow and white, as well as different shapes, forms and sizes. In some types, the flowers are scented when open but close at night or in overcast conditions. Although in general they don't flower for very long, they are extremely rewarding when they do. They can be very long-lived (over 50 years), are reliable and easy to care for. The larger/older the plant, the more flowers will be produced. Usually seen in cottage, and other informal, garden settings, they are a 'must' for eye-catching late spring colour! Paeonia grow well in climates with a cold winter. They like a sheltered position in full or slightly filtered sunlight and rich, moisture-retentive, well-drained soil. Large-flowered cultivars may require support.

Common problems with Peony

Peony Companion Plants

How to propagate Peony


Divide in autumn or early in spring.


Grafting in winter.


Tuberous species by root cuttings in winter; tree peonies by semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.


Some species can be propagated by seed.

Special features of Peony

Attractive flowers

Attracts useful insects

Attractive leaves

Other uses of Peony

Grown for their bold foliage, showy blooms and in some species colourful seed pods. Flower arranging. As Alice Morse Earle the American author and historian (1851-1911) memorably wrote: "The Peony always looks like a well-dressed, well-shod, well-gloved girl of birth, breeding, and of equal good taste and good health; a girl who can swim and hike and play golf ..."

Poisonous to Pets

If your pet likes to nibble your plants, check our collection to make sure what they're eating isn't doing them any harm.

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Looking Good in April - Top 10

Traditionally flowering in April, these flowers will be at their best this month.

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