paeonia

Peonies have been stars in gardens throughout the world for centuries. They are prized for their variety in bloom color, fragrance, and composition.

Peonies also have a place in the realm of medicine dating back to ancient Chinese remedies. For simplicity’s sake, Peonies can be divided into herbaceous (the foliage dies back every fall) and tree peonies (woody stems persist in the winter).

We will not discuss the intermediates (fabulous hybrids between herbaceous and tree peonies). Herbaceous peonies predominantly originate from Paeonia lactiflora and Paeonia officinalis crosses. There are hundreds of varieties with bloom colors ranging through white, pink, lavender, coral and red.

Some varieties simply smell like pollen where others have distinct perfumes. The flower composition can be single (one layer of petals around the central anthers and pistils), semi-double (a single layer of large petals with smaller modified petals around the center) or double (many layers of petals, the center is not visible).

The flowering period typically lasts for 2-3 weeks in April and May. They are wonderful cut flowers. They are best cut before they fully open so you can watch them unfurl. Also, partially opened flowers hold their color and dry well when hung upside down. Unfortunately the delicate petals will shatter if a hard rain falls when they are in full bloom.

Paeonia 'Chojuraku' - Tree Peony
Paeonia 'Chojuraku' - Tree Peony

Tree peonies are their own exotic realm. They are always a prized jewel in the garden. Tree peonies include many separate species. Paeonia delavayi, Paeonia ludlowii and Paeonia suffruticosa are the most commonly found at Portland Nursery.

Typically tree peonies bloom before herbaceous peonies in early spring. You may need to cover your tree peony in March to protect the buds from hard frosts. And those flowers are worth the effort. They have a much wider range of colors including yellow, orange and even green shades added to the mix of colors mentioned for herbaceous peonies. Their flowers are composed of the most exquisite crepe paper textured petals that are often blotched or flamed in the center.

Culitvars of Paeonia suffruticosa have very large flowers up to 12” across. Also, their blooms open and close with the day. Each flower can last up to 4-5 days. Tree peonies can have a longer bloom period than herbaceous peonies because of their sheer volume. In some species such as Paeonia delavayi, the flowers give way to fantastic seed pods that hold through the summer.

Once the blooms have gone, both herbaceous and tree peonies continue to shine with their bold foliage. The show truly begins when you see the first signs of the red or bronze foliage stalks of herbaceous peonies emerging from the ground in early spring. These stalks unfurl into rich green, deeply toothed leaves. Tree peonies often have a bluish cast to their leaves. This combined with the size and toothed texture give them almost a tropical look in the garden. In the fall, peony foliage can turn red, orange or yellow depending on the variety.

Below are some of our favorite Peonies commonly found at the nursery. We have the best selection in April and May.

Tree Peonies:

Paeonia delaveyi

Paeonia delaveyi

Large, 2-3” nodding fragrant flowers are a rich maroon color. Large dark green leaves are deeply cut with blue undersides. Fabulous red tipped seed pods persist through the summer. Blooms May-June. Grows 32-36” high and wide. Hardy to zones 6-8.

Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

Elegant lemon yellow flowers are 2-3” across and bloom May-June. Distinctive lacey foliage is light green. Huge seed pods. Grows 4-8’ high and wide. Hardy to zones 6-9.


Herbaceous Peonies:

Paeonia ‘Buckeye Belle’- Semi-double dark maroon flowers with crinkled petals. 24-28” high. An early bloomer with strong stems good for cutting.


Paeonia ‘Barrington Belle’- Deep red purple double flowers. Large outer petals with red or pink staminoids around the center. Mid season. Sturdy stems 33” high, free flowering, good for cutting.


Paeonia ‘Eden’s Perfume’- Very fragrant double dark pink flowers. Reputed to be one of the most fragrant peonies with a rose like fragrance. Strong stems 24” high, good for cutting.


Paeonia ‘Lotus Queen’- A stunning pure white single peony. A classy Japanese cultivar with a light fragrance. 30” high, strong stems good for cutting.


Paeonia ‘Sorbet’- Fluffy double pastel pink flowers. Stems 28” tall and sturdy, good for cutting.

Find the Best Perennials for your Garden

We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.

Perennials

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Native Actaea: Bugbane

Perennials

Agastache: Hyssop

Perennials

Anemone: Windflower

Perennials

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Native Aquilegia: Columbine

Perennials

Artemisia

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Perennials

Aster

Perennials

Astilbe: False Spirea

Perennials

Bellium: Miniature Daisy

Perennials

Bergenia: Pigsqueak

Perennials

Brunnera: Bugloss

Perennials

Canna Lily

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Perennials

Chrysanthemum

Perennials

Coreopsis: Tickweed

Perennials

Corydalis

Perennials

Cyclamen

Bulbs

Dahlia

Bulbs

Delosperma: Ice Plant

Perennials

Delphinium: Larkspur

Perennials

Dianthus: Carnation

Perennials

Dicentra: Bleeding Heart

Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Perennials

Echinacea: Coneflower

Perennials

Epimedium

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Perennials

Erodium: Alpine Geranium

Perennials

Eupatorium: Joe-Pye Weed

Perennials

Euphorbia: Spurge

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Bulbs

Fritillaria

Perennials

Hardy Fuchsia

Perennials

Hardy Geranium

Perennials

Geum: Avens

Perennials

Helenium: Sneezeweed

Perennials

Hellebore

Perennials

Hellebore: Gold Collection

Perennials

Hellebore: Winter Jewel

Perennials

Heuchera: Coral Bells

Perennials

Hosta: Plantain Lily

Perennials

Iberis: Candytuft

Bulbs

Iris

Natives

Native Iris

Perennials

Kniphofia: Red Hot Poker

Perennials

Leptinella

Perennials

Leucanthemum: Shasta Daisy

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Perennials

Ligularia

Perennials

Monarda: Bee Balm

Perennials

Moss

Bulbs

Narcissus: Daffodil

Perennials

Paeonia: Peony

Perennials

Papaver: Poppy

Perennials

Parahebe

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Perennials

Perovskia: Russian Sage

Perennials

Primula: Primrose

Perennials

Rudbeckia: Black-eyed Susan

Perennials

Salvia

Perennials

Santolina: Lavender Cotton

Perennials

Sedum

Perennials

Evergreen Sedum

Natives

Native Sedum: Stonecrop

Perennials

Sempervivum: Hen & Chicks

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Perennials

Top Shade Perennials

Perennials

Top Sun Perennials

Perennials

Tricyrtis: Toad Lily

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Bulbs

Tulip

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Perennials

Vinca: Periwinkle

Perennials

Viola: Violet

Natives

Native Viola: Violet

Perennials

Zantedeschia: Calla Lily