Paeony Blooms and Tubers

History of Paeonia


The first Paeony ( tree Paeonies) to be seen in Europe were introduced from China  in 1784 and their huge   thornless ‘roses’ wowed everyone.  In the early1800’s English and French nurseries were growing and selling herbaceous Paeony sourced from China. Native species that had been crossed in Eastern Mediterranean also  appeared and these were the forerunners of the modern hybrids.  In the early 1900’s  American Paeony growers started cross breeding in earnest and raising new cultivars from seeds, some of which are still popular choices in gardens today. The dedication and love for Paeony of these gardeners and many others through the 20th century has given us a vast selection of colours and varieties to choose from. There are thousands of varieties of Paeony, with many different flower types; simple singles, doubles, bombs, soft blousey blooms with collars and beautiful rose forms. Colours range from deep reds to the lightest pinks and whites through to cream and yellow. Blooms can be quite small, or the perfect  size for a vase, up to huge single cups and those breathtaking doubles the size of dinner plates.

PRONUNCIATION…. Paeonia, Paeony, Peony, Peony Rose are all names used for this lovely flower.  Named after PÆON a physician of ancient Greece who used the plant medicinally, it would follow that the correct way to say it is PEON – Y. However, many people prefer to call them PE – OWNY and it  seems to be purely a matter of preference with both being acceptable. Plurals are PEON – IES or PE – OWNIES.



Paeony not flowering and sulking after being moved is a commonly held belief. Whilst they may well be sulking, it would be more correct to say they are just unhappy because they are not being given what they need to grow well.

They need FULL SUN

One of the first mistakes people make is to put them under a tree. Paeony HATE the shade. Even over-hanging branches or crowding by tall shrubs will make them unhappy and stops them flowering well.

They need an OPEN COLD spot

Along with the “under the tree thought” is the belief that they are delicate. Paeony are herbaceous and one of the hardiest  plants you will find. To flower well, a Paeony needs 80 days of cold on the ground above its tuber. This cold does not have to be hard frosts, but the temperature needs to get down to single digits for a couple of months. (This is the main reason that they do not fare well in the top of the North Island and yet do so well in the lower South Island).To ensure they get cold, NEVER cover with hay, pea straw, bark or any other medium.

They need SHALLOW planting

They also will not flower well if planted deeply. Nice shallow planting is required as this allows the tuber to receive the cold it needs. Place the tuber with the flower buds just 5cm (2 inches) below the surface.

Tuber pieces MUST have 3 – 5  fat flower buds in the tuber piece for the plant to have flowers.

The main reason Paeony do not flower is due to insufficient flower buds on the piece of tuber being taken from the plant. (Read the following information on ‘Shifting and Dividing Paeony’). When ‘taking’ a piece of  Paeony it must be showing 3 to 5 fat flower buds tucked into the tuber. The plant needs to have this many buds to have a flower. If there are less (or worse still, none) then the plant is put back to being a baby and must ‘grow up’ and become old enough to have a flower. This can take years.

To help your young Paeony plant to get a really good start, resist the temptation to to pick the flowers for the first couple of years, and try not to pick all the flowers off  the plant, even when it is older.