Peonies and Similar Flowers

Botanical Names: cabbage rose (Rosa x centifolia), bearded (Iris germanica), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), false indigo (Baptisia australis), columbine (Aquilegia), spotted bellflower (Campanula punctata)

Choose a planting partner for peonies, and you may find yourself leaning toward flowers similar to peonies. Bloomers that offer big, blousy blooms packed with petals and possibly fragrance blend naturally with peony flowers. Peonies and roses, peonies and hydrangeas or peonies and lilies—any of those match-ups makes for gorgeous garden scenery.

Flowers like peonies may refer to blossoms that have a similar shape to peony blooms, or it may refer to choosing plants that flower when peonies do. Either group offers a wide enough variety that’s sure to please any gardener’s palette.

Flowers similar to peonies in terms of bloom shape usually have a full, round and/or cup shape. Hydrangea and viburnum flower heads often have that rounded, lush form, as do Oriental poppies and even giant allium blooms. Sprinkle a variety of round shape blossoms throughout a bed, and you’ll create a repeated element that can be the foundation of a stunning garden design.

Many rose varieties have round, richly petaled flowers that resemble peony blooms. The resemblance can be so strong that collectively these roses are sometimes referred to as peony roses. This group includes many old-fashioned roses, such as cabbage rose types (Rosa x centifolia) and the Hybrid Perpetual rose variety ‘Reine des Violettes’.

Other peony roses include repeat bloomer ‘Jacques Cartier’ or the Large-Flowered Climber
‘Sombreuil’. Many of the modern David Austin roses, including ‘Abraham Darby’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘Mary Rose’, also have full petalled blossoms that mimic peony flowers.

If you want to mix and match flowers similar to peonies in terms of bloom time, consider bearded iris (Iris germanica), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), false indigo (Baptisia australis), columbine (Aquilegia) and spotted bellflower (Campanula punctata). Many roses and also clematis vines burst into their first flush of bloom as peonies are flowering.

No matter what you choose to be planting partners with peonies, be sure to select plants with similar growth requirements. Peonies prefer well-drained soil in full sun. Because of a peony’s need to be planted shallowly, it’s best to avoid intermingling peonies with perennials that require frequent division. Otherwise the digging will disturb peony roots, which can reduce or even cancel the annual flower show.

Peony flowers enjoy a long lifespan in the landscape. Consider partnering them with other plants that tend to be planted and left alone. This might include shrubs, like rose-of-sharon (Hibiscussyriacus) or lilac (Syringa), or even trees. It’s not uncommon to find decades-old peony hedge rows tucked along small orchards or entry drives on old farmsteads. On these same older property styles, you might also discover a row of peonies bordering vegetable gardens or a clothesline.