Peonies are a cut flower staple, beloved by ornamental gardeners worldwide. While their foliage is a contributing factor, they are most sought-after for their rich symbolism and stunning blooms in various colors. This guide covers the many peony flower colors available, with recommendations on the best types in each color category.
What Color Do Peonies Come In? – Essential Tips
The most popular Peony varieties are typically blush pink, stark white or cream, or bright red. There are a few varieties in less common colors, such as yellow or orange, and even some types classified as multi-colored.
Peonies, scientifically known as Paeonia, are a genus of flowering perennials popular in home gardens and grown commercially for use as cut flowers. They are the only genus in a family named after them – Paeoniaceae.
This family was previously home to several closely related plants. However, as Peonies are so distinct, other genera were given their own classification and moved to new families, such as Ranunculaceae.
There are over 30 species of Peony, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some of the most popular include Paeonia officinalis and Paeonia lactiflora, herbaceous Peonies with sought-after flowers.
Peonies’ native habitats are spread across many continents in North America, Europe, and Asia. They prefer colder climates, native to mountain regions in the northern hemisphere, and require a bit of maintenance to cut back, prune, and deadhead each season, as well as needing lots of sunlight. Peonies are also very easy to divide and propagate and don’t require too much fertilizing.
For more, see our in-depth guide to growing peonies for beginners.
Types of Peonies
Peonies are separated into three types – herbaceous, tree, and intersectional or Itoh.
Herbaceous Peonies are the most common, with many popular species falling under this category. The flowers appear on long stems from May to June, with a short blooming season of under two weeks.
Tree Peonies are woody shrubs that are far hardier than their herbaceous counterparts. They also flower for more extended periods of around two weeks on average and keep their foliage throughout the year rather than dying back in fall.
Itoh or intersectional Peonies are hybrids developed by horticulturist Toichi Itoh from Tokyo in 1948. They have herbaceous characteristics and develop woody stems – the best of both worlds. They produce masses of flowers that can bloom for up to one month long.
These types of peonies are further categorized into six flower shapes, namely:
- Full Double
These flowers are not only beloved for their variety in shapes but also in colors.
Peony Color Varieties
Pink Peonies are arguably the most popular. There is plenty of variety in this shade, from deep to pastel blush pink, ensuring every gardener has an option.
Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is a standout and favorite among flower gardeners. The double blooms are ruffled in a stunning pink shade that has won it many awards, including the Royal Horticultural Societies Award of Garden Merit.
Try ‘Neon’, a Japanese Peony with a bright pink center for a deeper pink. They flower midseason on tall stems up to 36 inches in height.
Try these other cultivars for a wide range of pink shades and shapes:
- Do Tell
- Lady Alexandra Duff
- Martha Bulloch
- Dinner Plate
White Peonies are the way to go for a more muted color palette. Paired with other white ornamentals like Dahlias, they create a stunning show of flowers in their respective seasons.
Early to Midseason varieties are great for gardeners in warmer zones. The crisp white ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ is an older cultivar (over 150 years), collecting many awards and appreciation in long-time gardeners’ hearts.
‘Bride’s Dream’ is a Japanese cultivar of Paeonia lactiflora that produces masses of white flowers with a creamy center. The large flowers are an absolute standout in any perennial bed.
But, the ultimate favorite of all the white varieties is the fragrant ‘Shirley Temple’. The romantic blossoms start out a soft pink and fade to white over the blooming season, providing continual interest.
Other white varieties include:
- Elsa Sass
- Miss America
- Krinkled White
If you’re looking for a softer white Peony, cream varieties are ideal. They combine the lightness of white varieties with the softness of blush or yellow types.
This color category features one of the earliest Peonies to bloom of the herbaceous types – ‘Claire de Lune’. The single flowers are a creamy yellow with large, bright golden centers. These flowers are the perfect way to welcome the Peony season.
The favorite of the blush-cream category is ‘Mother’s Choice’. This variety has won the American Peony Societies Gold Medal for the stunning double flowers with densely packed petals. It also has a beautiful fragrance, perfect for sensory gardens.
Another popular option is ‘Bowl of Cream’, beloved for its large flowers 12 inches in diameter.
For lovers of bright red flowers, there is no shortage to choose from in the Peony genus. Hues range from a deep red to neon, suiting any garden design.
Award-winning hybrid ‘America’ is one of the most popular single blossom Peonies on the market. A vigorous grower withstanding harsh weather, this variety reliably produces several velvety red blooms early on in the season.
This color group also has double blossoms, such as ‘Henry Bockstoce’ and ‘Karl Rosenfield.’ They both have bright red hues, with the latter featuring a touch of bright pink to make the large blossoms appear almost luminous.
That’s not all there is when it comes to red Peonies. Try these varieties:
- Buckeye Belle
- Red Charm
- Scarlett O’Hara
The many dark and mysterious red Peonies are deserving of their own category for their beauty and popularity.
The darkest of all the red flowers, hybrid ‘Chocolate Soldier’ is (as evident in the name) almost chocolate brown-red with a bright yellow center. Shapes vary per flower, creating continual interest throughout the season.
‘Early Scout’ joins ‘Claire de Lune’ as one of the first of the season to bloom. The scarlet petals appear above dense green foliage, staying a compact 24 inches in height.
Several varieties feature this dreamy scarlet hue, including:
- Topeka Garnet
- Merry Mayshine
- Illini Warrior
Yellow Peonies are less common, but no less beloved than other types. Most are pastel or cream yellow, but there are also brighter options for color lovers.
Itoh variety ‘Prairie Charm’ has large semi-double flowers with dense petals that pop up midseason. This is another award-winning flower with a devoted fan base.
Try ‘Bartzella’ – another intersectional Peony with golden yellow 8-inch flowers for something a little brighter. These popular plants can produce up to 60 flowers per season, ensuring there is plenty to enjoy throughout summer.
Similar to yellow Peonies in tone, there are also a couple of coral types with stunning orange petals that perfectly compliment any summer garden.
‘Singing in the Rain,’ an Itoh Peony, has a peachy tone in the pretty, delicate petals. They appear atop tall stems 3-4 feet in height and can tolerate warm weather better than other types.
For a combination of pink and orange, opt for ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral.’ The blooms make excellent cut flowers or add a touch of orangey-pink brightness to your beds early on in the season.
Single tones are not the only options in the Peony genus. There are also several multi-colored types that add a touch of something different to perennial gardens.
- Golly: A combination of blush and white petals, with a halo of yellow staminodes in the center.
- Cora Louise: Large flowers with stark white petals and deep purple bases.
- Festiva Maxima: Largely white flowers dotted with raspberry pink that appears almost painted on.
- Athena: Peach-colored petals with bright pink-purple bases and a contrasting gold center.
There is a Peony type for almost every color of the rainbow. No matter your garden design or color palette, there is a Peony variety for you.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.
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