Peony Flowers

Learn about different types of peony flowers.
Paeonia suffruticosa ~Amber Moon~ (01) Bloom

Paeonia suffruticosa ~Amber Moon~ (01) Bloom

Paeonia suffruticosa ~Amber Moon~ (01)

Stir up some romance in your garden, courtesy of peony flowers. This spring perennial has rich associations with love and marriage. In fact, its lush blossoms are so overflowing with petals that one peony meaning is a marriage overflowing with love and peace. You can choose peony plants that open blooms in shades of pink, red, white, yellow and coral. There’s also a wide variety of flower types, along with a few different kinds of peony plants. 

Plant experts divide peony flowers into several specific types, depending on petal arrangement. Single peony flowers open wide and petals lay back flat, revealing the center of the bloom with the fringe of stamens. In Japanese peony flowers, the center stamens are wider, forming a narrow yellow petal that appears to create a fringe surrounded by a cup of colorful petals. These peony bushes aren’t from Japan, but rather admired by the Japanese culture. Anemone-type peony flowers are similar in appearance to Japanese peony blooms. 

Semi-double blooms have a floral center that’s still visible, but the surrounding petals are more numerous than in the other peony flower types. Fully double peony blossoms are the rich, full flowers packed with petals. No central reproductive area is visible on the flowers—only petals. 

Several types of peony plants exist. Herbaceous or Chinese peonies are the soft-stemmed plants that most people think of when they hear the word “peony.” These peony bushes die back to the ground each fall and push out new shoots the following spring. Tree peony plants are deciduous shrubs. They have woody stems and drop their leaves in fall. New growth appears along the woody stems in spring. 

Intersectional peony bushes, also known as Itoh peonies or Itoh hybrids, are formed by crossing a white herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kakoden’) with a yellow hybrid tree peony (Paenoia x lemoinei). These plants offer flower colors previously unavailable among herbaceous peony plants. Itoh hybrids die to the ground in winter and start new growth from soil level each spring. 

No matter what type of peony flower you have, all peonies have one thing in common: The plant is often crawling with ants. In Chinese culture, one peony meaning, industriousness, refers to the hard work the ants perform as peony flowers open. In Victorian times, the ants were believed to be necessary to open peony blooms, and the closed blooms came to represent the purity and chastity of young brides. 

While folklore states that ants are required to open the blooms, that’s not the case. The ants are merely present to harvest sugar-filled droplets released as flower buds start to open. The sugar comes from the plant’s food stores and is a natural byproduct of flowering.

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