Botanical Names: tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora)
What is the right season for peonies? It depends. For flowering, peony season occurs in spring, although the precise timing varies depending on the type of peony. Different herbaceous peony varieties also can flower at slightly different times. For planting, peonies’ season occurs in fall for bareroot plants and spring for potted ones.
When most people ask, “When are peonies in season?” they want to know when these perennial favorites burst into bloom. The answer varies somewhat, depending type of peony. Herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are a cherished spring perennial that provide color in the garden between the intense display of spring bulbs and the fireworks of summer bloomers.
Different types of herbaceous peonies flower at different points along that spring-summer bridge. You can purchase varieties listed as early, mid-season and late bloomers. The exact timing for each of those categories depends on region, but typically the flowering window for peony season runs somewhere from April through June.
By including a mix of early, mid- and late-flowering peonies, you can extend peony season in your garden up to nearly seven weeks. For Southern gardeners, planting early season peony varieties is the best way to guarantee that plants will flower before summer heat arrives and flowers blast open and close in a day.
In the Midwest and Northeast, many gardeners recognize peonies season as coinciding with Memorial Day and rely on homegrown peony bouquets to decorate grave sites. In many northern areas it’s a long-standing tradition to plant peonies beside graves since Memorial Day falls during the flowering window.
You can expand peony season even more by including tree peonies in your garden. These gorgeous shrub-like plants toss open their elegant blooms before herbaceous peonies. In the Mid-Atlantic region, tree peony flowers appear around the beginning of May. Blooms would open later in more northerly regions and earlier in Southern locations.
The Itoh peony group, also known as the intersectional hybrids, are the result of a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies. These peonies’ season typically overlaps the flowering window of herbaceous peonies somewhat, although Itoh peonies hold their open flowers longer than herbaceous types.
Peonies’ season for planting can occur during fall or spring. Nurseries that specialize in growing peonies typically sell bare-root plants for fall planting. By tucking roots into soil in fall, you give plants a chance to produce a healthy root system before the ground freezes. You’ll might also see potted peonies for sale in spring at garden centers. In all regions, aim to get these plants into the ground before summer heat arrives.