Peonies’ gorgeous ruffled blooms and perennial habit make them popular garden plants. However, if you have a shady garden, you may be wondering whether you can grow peonies in the shade. Stick with us for the answer!
Can Peonies Grow in the Shade?
Let’s get the simple answer out of the way. Yes, peonies can grow in partial shade! However, no types of peonies will grow well in full shade.
That said, some types of peonies will require full sun to thrive.
Choosing Peonies for Shady Areas
If you have a shady garden and want to grow peonies, you should pay specific attention to the variety. The term peony refers to around 33 species in the Paeonia genus.
There are differences between peony species as well as variations between individual cultivars within a single species.
Some of these differences are visible, but others are not apparent to the naked eye. One of these invisible variations is a plant’s ability to tolerate shade.
Before you go ahead and plant a peony in an area that receives partial shade, ensure the species and variety can tolerate this environment.
The following types of peonies can handle a few hours of shade each day. However, they do need at least four hours of light each day to thrive and bloom.
Therefore, you should plant these peonies in areas with dappled shade or areas that receive morning or afternoon sun.
This herbaceous peony is native to forest understories present in Japan. Therefore, it’s well suited to dappled light or partial shade.
It’s a relatively small plant that grows around a foot tall and a foot wide. It can survive cold but not intense heat, so it will grow best if you live in USDA zones 5–8.
As long as the plants remain healthy, they will produce handfuls of delicate white flowers coupled with yellow stamens in the late spring. Just be sure to give the plants a few hours of light each day if you want blooms.
Paeonia suffruticosa ‘High Noon’
This is one of the most popular types of hybrid tree peonies.
Like most tree peonies, it grows between 4–5 feet tall and 4–5 feet wide. It can be grown in USDA zones 4–9, but it requires more afternoon shade in the hot south.
‘High Noon’ produces an impressive number of large pale yellow flowers with red centers. The blooms have layers of ruffled petals which gives them the classic peony shape.
Also known as the woodland peony, Paeonia obovata is native to the forest floors of China, Japan, and Russia. As such, it can thrive in partial shade.
It is an herbaceous peony that will grow only two feet tall and two feet wide. Therefore, it makes a good addition to woodland gardens or in front of larger plants that offer shade.
Its simple flowers can be red, white, or purple and bloom in late spring. The foliage typically remains throughout the summer and then drops once winter arrives.
Paeonia lutea ‘Ludlowii’
Another tree peony that can handle part shade is the Tibetan tree peony. This variety can grow up to four feet tall and perform well in USDA zones 4–9.
This is one of the taller peonies—plants regularly reach eight or nine feet tall. Therefore, you should consider where to plant these before placing them in the ground.
The plant produces bright yellow flowers with yellow sepals in mid to late spring.
How Do I Know My Peony Is Getting Enough Sun?
If you are wondering if your plant is receiving enough sun, you can look for a few signs that might need more light.
A lack of flowers is one sign that your plant may need more light. However, no flowers may also be caused by too much nitrogen, improper temperature, and drought.
Another sign that your plants may need more light is long and thin stems that appear to be reaching for the light.
Too much shade can also impact a peony plant’s overall vigor. If you’re providing your plant with the proper care, but it isn’t growing, it may need more light.
On the other hand, too much light can result in burnt leaves and browned petals. This is a common problem if plants receive the afternoon sun in hot climates.
Growing Peonies in the Shade: Wrapping Up
No matter if you have full sun or partial shade, you can find a peony plant for your garden. The trick is to pick a species and cultivar suited to your area’s light conditions.
For more, see our ultimate guide to growing peonies in your garden.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.
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