Peony Colors

Explore the many facets of peony flower colors, from familiar pink peonies to unusual yellow ones.
By: Julie A Martens
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Botanical Names: Paeonia, tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora), Red Memorial Day peony (Paeonia officinalis ‘Rubra Plena’)

Paint your garden with the lively tints of peony flowers. These favorite perennial bloomers open blossoms in a host of hues. Peony colors vary dramatically. The traditional tints of Chinese or garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) include white, pink, rose and red. Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) and hybrid Itoh peonies expand the peony color palette to offer shades of coral, deep purple, mahogany and bright yellow.

What color is a peony flower most associated with? One of the most commonly recognized
peony colors is pink. This cherished hue is most famous in ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony, which opens stunning, richly petaled pink blossoms late in the season. For many gardeners, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony is often the last to bloom. The flowers on this heirloom pink peony are packed with fragrance.

White is another classic hue in the colors of peonies—and a favorite for weddings. White peonies bring on the flower power and, in many cases, intense fragrance. ‘Duchesse de Nemours’ is one of the best known white peonies, opening fully double blossoms loaded with alily of the valley scent. An heirloom, this white peony dates to 1856.

Another well-known white peony is ‘Festiva Maxima’. This white bloomer displays random flecks of crimson-red along petal edges. It’s one of the peonies that does well even in Southern gardens. This is another cherished heirloom peony, first sold in Boston in 1852.

As you ponder which peony color you want to plant, don’t overlook red shades. This group of peonies opens blossoms in a range of red tones, from burgundy, to fire engine red, to rose red.

You can even find bicolors, like ‘White Cap’, which blend red with white. Tree peonies and
hybrid Itoh peonies take red hues to a deeper level, mixing in tints of purple. Three of the better known red peonies are ‘Karl Rosenfield’, ‘Kansas’ and the peony known as the Red Memorial Day peony (Paeonia officinalis ‘Rubra Plena’).

Yellow peony colors run from pale butter yellow, to lemon, to gold. The brightest yellow peonies occur among the hybrids, like ‘Bartzella’, an Itoh peony hybrid. This bloomer opens lemon-scented blossoms that measure up to 10 inches across. ‘High Noon’ tree peony offers 6- to 7-inch-wide semi-double flowers filled with fragrance.

Peony colors include nearly every hue but blue—although you can find plants sold as blue peonies. (They open lavender-pink blooms.) A group known as purple peonies tends to be more lavender or lavender-pink, although some peony flowers in this group have more of a purple-tinged red shade.

Before adding peony plants to your garden, do your homework and learn about the different colors of peonies that are available.  Realize that peony flower hues tend to fade as the blossoms age. Pale shades often fade to white before a flower dies.

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