Are peonies and roses related?


Peonies: Care - Varieties - History

Are peonies and roses related?

No, peonies (Paeonia) are a separate plant family  (Paeoniaceae). But peonies are also beautiful creatures. Unfortunately, the flowering period from late April to June is shorter than that of modern, multiple-flowering roses.

Here you can find

  1. 1. Care instructions for peonies
  2. 2. an overview of the types of peonies available
  3. 3. The history and the crazy about the peony

1. Care instructions for peonies

All peonies need sun to bloom (but because of the beautiful leaves I also had a few rustic peonies in the shade bed). Otherwise the plow varies a bit from variety to variety (varieties see point 2)

1. Do not plant too deep

Perennial peonies must not be planted too deep, otherwise they will not bloom. The rhizome may only be covered with soil 1-3 cm.

Itoh peonies (or intersectional hybrids) should be planted 5 cm deep.

Tree peonies come 10 cm below the ground. Tree peonies do not tolerate waterlogging, which is why they are often planted on "hills" (heaps of earth from which rainwater can run off quickly). And they have to be sunk deeper into the ground when planting. When buying, the plants consist of tree peony cuttings that have been grafted onto a perennial peony base. In order for the plants to flourish, the cuttings have to form their own roots in the earth over time. This transition point should be at least 3-5 cm below the ground.

2. The sunnier the more flowers

A really sunny location with six hours of sun per day is ideal. Fewer blooming is to be expected in partial shade. I  had some common peonies in the shade because of the beautiful leaves, they didn't flower there.

3. Fertilize carefully

I always put some compost on the plants in the fall after I've removed the leaves (by the way, some authors say that compost is by no means an ideal fertilizer for peonies, but they always bloom wonderfully here, so I'm sticking to it). In the spring I then flatten the compost so that a maximum of 1 cm of soil remains above the Rizom.

4. Supports

Perennial peonies need support. In the case of larger plants, in early May, before flowering, it is often sufficient to carefully tie the plant together like a bouquet of flowers at the stems. For younger plants, I also use a bamboo stick for stability. Otherwise, metal rings are also possible, they are available beautifully decorated, so that they adorn the bed all year round. Otherwise, they are uncomplicated, can withstand drought in my case and become more beautiful from year to year.Itoh peonies (or intersectional hybrids) and shrub peonies (or tree peonies) do not need to be supported, the styles and woody shoots are firm enough.

5. Water

Peonies only needs to be waterd in the first year. Otherwise only in extreme drought and heat during flowering, I have the impression that a strong watering will then extend the duration of flowering. Tree peonies do not tolerate waterlogging, which is why they are often planted on "hills" (heaps of earth from which rainwater can run off quickly). 

6. Cutting:

Perennial Peonies should be cut down in autumn, when the leaves of the herbaceous peonies are wilting, the stems are cut off just above the ground. I also love perennials that are left standing in winter with their beautiful seed heads. But Peonies leaves would go moldy,The tree peonies are actually not cut. They grow pretty slowly. Here, however, the fallen leaves should be picked up because of the risk of mold and disposed of on the compost.

Intersectional hybrids are cared for like perennial peonies. The slightly woody shoots are cut off one to two hand's widths above the ground in autumn.

7. Transplanting

Peonies can become lifelong companions, they can easily stay in the same place for 30-50 years. If you are transplanting older specimens you should divide them. And you should choose the place carefully: where a peony was standing there cannot be a new peony for the next ten years without a complete soil replacement.

2. Varieties

There are numerous different peonies. First of all, it is important (also for care) to distinguish between herbaceous perennial peonies and shrub or tree peonies

Perennial Peonies

In the perennial peonies, the above-ground parts of the plant die off completely in winter. A distinction is made between the common peony (Paeonia officinalis) from Europe with various sub-varieties and the perennial peony (Päonie lactiflora) from China, of which there are countless, fantastic varieties: simple, unfilled flowers with a yellow center that look like anemones that have grown too big, Flowers with a simple outer leaf wreath and a fluffy center and other charming varieties. They come flower in white, pink, red, lavender, yellow, and even a mix of the above colors.

You can distinguish them by the leaves: The lactiflora peony shows pinnate foliage.

Lactiflora peonies also have several flowers on one stem and therefore bloom longer, they also grow a little taller than the farm peonies.

Shrub peonies

Then there are the tree or shrub peonies from Asia, whose shoots lignify and shrubs / trees are formed that can reach a height of over two meters. Here I can now show a first picture. I received a small plant in autumn 2019 and hope to be able to see how it slowly grows into a tree.

Intersectional hybrids

The group of intersectional hybrids sounds exciting: a mixture of  perennial and tree peonies: They are said to have beautiful, large flowers and their medium height should fit into any herbaceous bed. I cannot report from my own experience yet, but I bought one today: I ordered a beautiful pale pink variety with large flowers and a purple basal spot. (Paeonia Cora Louise) and a cream-colored with a hint of apricot; Paeonia canary brilliants, These are older varieties, the flowers of which are partially hidden in the foliage. With new, beautiful varieties of hybrids, you have to pay 35 to 65 euros for one plant. For example, I really like the filled intersectional hybrid Copper kettle with great cream and orange tones, but the plant costs 55-65 euros.

3. History of the peonies and interesting facts

The common peonies (like the Rubia plena variety above) come from Europe and have been known here since ancient times. In the past, people ascribed mysterious healing powers to the beautiful flowers, its seeds and its roots. (But be careful: in fact, all parts of the plant are slightly poisonous).

The peonies are named after Paieon, the doctor of the gods. In Homer's stories, this god heals wounds that the Greek heroes suffered in the Trojan War with herbs and herbal balm. And the Greek doctors mention the peony as a medicinal plant in their writings

The beautiful plant probably only came to us in Germany in the Middle Ages. Benedictine monks brought them across the Alps from the Mediterranean region. Around 1150 AD, Hildegard von Bingen recommends peonies against various ailments, including seeds against epilepsy.

The seeds had to be harvested at night, their healing properties are associated with the moon. Allegedly, the seeds of the peonies should glow slightly at night due to a phosphorous substance. Therefore, they were said to have various magical powers and protection against demons. I'll check that with the glowing seeds this summer on a mild summer night :-)!

In China, the Chinese peonies have a millennia-old tradition. The peony is considered the queen of flowers there, has its own symbolism and is still used there in traditional Chinese medicine today.

I am so excited about your experience:

What are your favorite peonies?

What experiences have you had with peonies? Who has a tree peony or experience with intersectional hybrids?

What do you use as fertilizer?

More information about peonies:

Personally, I really liked the detailed article about peonies with beautiful pictures by Andreas Barlage on the website of the Gaißmayer perennial nursery:

Peonies - Perennial nursery Gaißmayer

On this video, the specialist Professor Hans-Dieter Warda shows the wonderful Chinese tree peonies in the Arboretum Ellerhop and gives care tips.

Shrub Peonies

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