Common peony – planting, care and tips

Common peony
Common peony

The common peony transforms the garden into a blossom paradise in May and June. How to plant and care for Paeonia officinalis.

Profile of common peony:

Scientific name: Paeonia officinalis

Plant family: peony family (Paeoniaceae)

Other names: garden peony, European peony

Planting time: container plants: spring to late autumn; root plants: September to November

Flowering period: May to June

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: loamy, nutritious, humus rich,

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds bouquets, cottage garden, flower garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6

Bee and insect friendly: yes

Plant characteristics and classification of common peony

Plant order, origin and occurrence of common peony

The common peony (Paeonia officinalis), also known as the European peony or garden peony, belongs to the peony family (Paeoniaceae). It comes from regions south of the Alps, where it can be found at various altitudes, up to 1,800 meters (5,900 ft.). In Central Europe it has had a permanent place in monastery and farm gardens since the middle of the 16th century. Around 300 years later, when the more noble Chinese peony (Paeonia Lactiflora) was introduced, the common peony temporarily went out of fashion. Today you can look forward to the old garden treasure with its baroque charm. Peonies are weakly poisonous and were also used medicinally until 1860, for example for pain in the bladder and kidneys, gout or epilepsy.

Characteristics of common peony


Common peony are among the perennials, so they grow as herbaceous, perennial plants that die above ground in winter and sprout fresh in the coming spring. Depending on the variety, they reach heights of 40 to 80 centimeters (16 to 32 in).


The dark green, stalked, three-part leaves of Paeonia officinalis can turn slightly pink when it is hot and dry.


The unbranched stems bear large single flowers in May and June that are simple or bulky and can be up to 13 centimeters (5 in) in diameter.


If you do not cut the perennials beforehand, each flower will develop two or three felty follicles that will open and release blue-black seeds.

Common peony with a rose flower
Common peony with a rose flower

Common peony – cultivation and care


Garden peony love sunny places, but also tolerate partial shade. Then, however, the bloom is not quite as lush. Very important: all peonies prefer to be left alone. This applies not only to neighboring plants that are not too close to them, but also to working the soil near them.


Loamy-humic, nutrient-rich and deep soils with a not too high lime content are ideal for the common peony. However, they are quite generous in terms of the subsoil and also manage with less optimal location. Like so many plants, they do not tolerate waterlogging.


Again and again one hears that peonies cannot be transplanted. It is true that they prefer to grow undisturbed, but they can still be established in a new place. If you want to put this plan into practice, you should divide the cluster and so you can also multiply the peony by division varietal.


Peonies that are bought in containers can be planted from spring to late autumn. Often there are also root plants in perennial nurseries, which only come into the soil at rest from September to around November. In the first winter you should put on some leaves or brushwood as a protection against frost. The peonies will be hardy in the coming years. You place the rhizome just under the surface of the earth at maximum of 3 centimeters (1 in). If it sits deeper, the perennials do not bloom at all or only after many years. The common peony does not grow very quickly, but will be many decades old. Even if it does not look like it at first, over time a specimen will reach a diameter of up to one meter (40 in). This space requirement is important when combining with other plants.


In the spring after planting the peonies, they are watered in dry phases. In the following years, this is usually no longer necessary, unless the months of March to June are extremely low in precipitation.


So that the garden peony has sufficient nutrients for the exhausting bloom and leaf mass, organic, potash-based fertilizers are added in spring. In autumn, you can also spread a thin layer of compost. Nitrogen is not well tolerated, it causes the buds to die and makes the plants more susceptible to fungal diseases.


The relatively thin, soft shoots of the common peony usually break under the heavy flowers. However, a support for the perennial helps. The leaves and shoots can still look pretty after flowering. If you have vital, healthy plants, you can let the dried leaves stand until they sprout in late winter. However, if the common peony suffers from fungal diseases, the shoots are cut close to the ground in autumn and disposed of in the residual waste.

Diseases and pests

Peonies are actually robust plants, which are usually only troubled by fungal diseases if they are fertilized incorrectly (too much nitrogen) or too heavily pressed by other perennials and as a result the air cannot circulate. With sufficient planting distance and the right nutrients, infestation can be well prevented. If leaf spots appear or the stems dry early, leaves or shoots are cut off and disposed of with household waste. Gray mold (Botrytis paeoniae) or leaf spot diseases (Septoria paeoniae and Clado-sporium paeoniae) are possible causes. Snails, however, are not attracted by the common peony.


From the second year after planting the garden peony is hardy. In the first year some brushwood or leaves should be placed for winter protection.

Use in the garden

As a cottage garden plant, other classics for sunny beds with loamy, humic garden soil, such as delphinium (Delphinium) and oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), go well with Paeonia officinalis. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), cranesbill (Geranium species), woodland sage (Salvia nemorosa) and catnip (Nepeta) are good intermediaries between these strong flower personalities. Individual areas of bulb flowers show color in front of the peonies, in summer daisies (Leucanthemum), and autumn asters or sneezeweeds (Helenium) come in place.

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