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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
Attracts useful insects
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 ..."
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