White Peonies

Discover the beauty of white peonies, which bring gentle color and rich fragrance to the spring garden.
By: Julie A Martens

Include one of the garden’s prettiest flowers in your yard: white peonies. It’s easy to overlook the white members of the peony clan when you’re flipping through a garden catalog or website, but once you see a white peony flower in bloom, you’ll be mesmerized. As a group, white peonies include some of the most fragrant blossoms. Many of these easy growing perennials also tend to flower later than other peonies, offering a sweet extension to peony season.

To grow a classic white peony, look for ‘Duchesse de Nemours’. This is an early-flowering white peony and likely the most well-known double white. The petals offer ivory dusted with light yellow-green at the base. Bred in 1856 by the French plantsman Calot, this beauty boasts the rich scent typical of Calot peonies. The fragrance is closest to lily of the valley flowers. Choose this white peony for more exposed locations and low maintenance. Its sturdy stems and shorter stature rarely need staking.

The No. 1 white peony for cut flowers is ‘Charlie’s White’. This is another early-flowering white that unfurls fully double blooms. Stems tend to be long and straight—perfect for picking and slipping into bouquets. ‘Charlie’s White’ doesn’t just look pretty in a vase, it also scents a room with a sweet, floral fragrance.

For wedding bouquets, grow the pollenless ‘Carrara’. This white peony has a flower type known as Japanese. The petals form a cup cradling a center of frilly stamens that fade from cream to pure white as the flower ages. Like many white peonies, this beauty brings fragrance to the garden and bouquet.

A single flowered white peony is ‘Krinkled White’, which displays pure white, crinkled petals surrounding a bright gold center. Stems are sturdy and grow to 31 inches, a nice short height that doesn’t require staking. First sold in 1928, this white peony is drought tolerant once established and makes a colorful addition to a xeriscape garden design.

White tree peonies include ‘Godaishu’, which opens 8- to 10-inch flowers in pure white with gold centers. Plants can produce up to 50 blooms each. Phoenix tree peony, also known as ‘Feng Dan Bai’, is a fast growing tree peony that flowers early in its lifespan. Its blooms measure up to 8 inches across with ruffled white petals and a contrasting gold center.

In the garden, mix and match white peonies with flowers in any shade. Good planting companions for Chinese white peonies include shrub roses, false indigo, Siberian or bearded iris and catmint. Or try planting white peonies with other white bloomers and white variegated plants to create an evening garden. Good plant candidates for this type of design include Shasta daisy, variegated Solomon’s seal and ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera.

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