Botanical Names: tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora)

Grow a peony, and you’ll quickly discover why this beautiful bloomer is often called the queen of the perennial garden. Peonies are native to the northern hemisphere and have been grown for centuries. The botanical name is Paeonia, and there are several types of peonies within that group. Peony flowers open in a rainbow of hues, including all manner of pink shades, burgundy, white and yellow.

When peonies flower depends on the type of peony. The common garden or herbaceous peony, also known as Chinese peony, is Paeonia lactiflora. Herbaceous peonies flower during the transition time from spring into summer. Individual peony plants typically open flowers for 7 to 10 days.

Different peony varieties flower at different points during that spring to summer window and are referred to as early, mid- or late-flowering types. By planting a peony garden filled with varieties that flower at different times, you can savor a long show.

Tree peonies flower before herbaceous varieties start blooming. The tree peony is known botanically as Paeonia suffruticosa. This peony plant is actually more of a peony bush, having woody stems that drop their leaves in fall and sprout with new growth in spring. Tree peonies open large flowers from 6 to 9 inches across.

Gardeners treasure peony plants for many reasons, but one is their easy growing nature. Herbaceous peonies are a cinch to grow and definitely a good plant for new gardeners. Peony plants survive for generations, making this beauty a wonderful bloomer to use as a backbone in a garden bed.

Peony flowers make terrific additions to garden bouquets—or they can star as the main blossom in a vase. You’ll often see ants on peonies. If you’re worried about bringing them indoors on blooms, there’s an easy way around that issue. Pick peony flowers when the bud is just cracking open, before the flowerhead gives ants a place to hide. The buds will open fully in the vase.

Peony flower meaning embraces a wide variety of concepts, including wealth, good fortune and honor. Peonia blooms also symbolize industriousness, inspired by the relationship between peony flowers and ants, which appear to help the blossoms to open. Peony flowers rank prominently in wedding bouquets because they embody the idea of prosperity and good fortune, along with a happy marriage that overflows with peace.

Plant herbaceous peonies in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Tree peonies prefer more dappled sunlight and protection from the sun during the hottest part of the day. They also benefit from well-drained soil. The right time to plant bareroot herbaceous peonies is in early fall, or you can tuck potted plants into soil in spring. Tree peonies are also best planted as bare root tubers inthe early fall, but you’ll find potted specimens for sale in spring at garden centers.