15 Sensational Peony Hybrids
Today, gardeners who love peonies can grow so many varieties, including the common garden peonies their grandmothers grew. They can also cultivate hardy peony hybrids such as tree peonies and intersectional peonies. And thanks to the internet, old-fashioned fernleaf peonies are easier to find.
These sensational peony plants have all the charm of Grandma's herbaceous peonies plus a few added bonuses.
Double & single bloom peonies
Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) aren't actually trees. They're shrubs that produce woody stems, and they have quite a few advantages over herbaceous peonies.
Unlike herbaceous varieties, tree peonies don't die back to the ground, so they add structure to the garden year round.
Tree peonies also bloom earlier than herbaceous peonies, and their flowers are larger and available in a wider variety of colors than the standard peony's whites and pinks. Paeonia suffruticosa blossoms may be yellow, purple, maroon or green. Some are single petaled, some double petaled and some have centers in contrasting colors like herbaceous Japanese perennial peonies. Many produce fragrant blooms.
Although they grow slowly, taking decades to reach their full height, tree peonies are quite long lived. Some specimens in China are believed to be over 200 years old.
Tree Peonies to Try in Your Garden
The 'Yachiyotsubaki' tree peony is hardy in Zones 3-9, producing enormous soft pink flowers up to ten inches in diameter in late spring. It grows best in full sun or partial shade, and may reach five feet tall.
The tree peony 'Choujyuraku' is hardy in Zones 4-9 and may reach heights of up to five feet. It grows well in full sun or part shade and produces lavender flowers with yellow centers in late spring/early summer.
Hardy in Zones 4-6, 'Shima Daijin' produces purple flowers in mid-spring and does well in both full sun and partial shade. It ordinarily reaches heights anywhere from four to six feet.
Arranging Lots of Gorgeous Cut Peonies
This late-spring bloomer produces eight to ten-inch dark pink blooms and grows up to five feet tall. It's hardy in Zones 3-9 and takes full sun or part shade.
'Yaezakura' is another hardy double-petaled tree peony. It produces flowers with golden yellow centers that contrast with its "Very Double Cherry" petals.
'Kinshi's' ruffled double-petal blooms resemble herbaceous "bomb" peonies. Mature shrubs can produce flowers measuring up to 10-inches across.
Like all peonies, 'Yaezakura' and 'Kinshi' are deer resistant. Because they are tree peonies, they are also long-lived, slow-growing shrubs that reach just 4 to 5 feet high over time.
Each blooms from May to June, potentially producing hundreds of flowers at maturity. Hardy in USDA Zones 3-9, they can withstand sub-zero temperatures. Although they'll perform well in part shade, they need 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.
The intersectional peony hybrid is a cross between the tree peony and the traditional herbaceous peony, and it's super hardy.
Sometimes intersectionals are called Itoh hybrids after their first hybridizer, Toichi Itoh, who crossed the white herbaceous peony Paeonia lactiflora 'Kakoden' and the yellow hybrid tree peony Paeonia x lemoinei in 1948.
Intersectionals You'll Love
Like tree peonies, intersectionals are vigorous growers that produce dense, sturdy foliage. Like herbaceous peonies, they die back to the ground at the end of the growing season and emerge in spring. More cold hardy than tree peonies, intersectionals perform well in Zones 2-8.
The cultivar ‘Julia Rose’ is a gardener favorite. Its blossoms, which are sweetly fragrant, open in late spring/early summer. Although a deep rose color at first, they quickly change to a pretty peach and then turn a mellow yellow accented by peach and pink streaks. Gorgeous and deer resistant!
'Yellow Crown' is a fragrant, deer-resistant tree peony that grows between two and three feet tall. In late spring/early summer, it produces yellow semi-double blossoms that may be streaked with red. 'Yellow Crown' blooms may be up to eight inches in diameter and are lovely in cut flower arrangements.
'Sequestered Sunshine' grows about three feet tall and produces large bright yellow flowers in late spring. In hot weather it may wilt, so give it extra water.
'Kopper Kettle' has all the features for which intersectionals are known--strong stems, cold hardiness and gorgeous bloom color. It's also a relatively tall shrub, reaching up to 4-feet high. Its sweet-smelling blossoms will last for weeks in arrangements. 'Kopper Kettle's' blooms open in late spring/early summer. Because of its many desirable characteristics, this Itoh hybrid is highly sought-after, and it can be somewhat difficult and expensive to acquire.
'First Arrival' is another intersectional peony hybridized by Anderson. Like others of its type, it's a hardy, vigorous grower; however, it's the deep lavender color of its fragrant semi-double flowers that make it truly unique.
Fernleaf peonies (Paeonia tenuifolia) are hardy in USDA Zones 3-8, but they're difficult to propagate and rarely seen at garden centers. Like all peonies, fernleafs are cold hardy, and they like well-drained soil and sun (at least 6 hours a day).
Unlike other types of peonies, their foliage is feathery and delicate--hence the familiar name "fernleaf." Paeonia tenuifolia is also shorter than other peony varieties, reaching just 15 to 20 inches high.
Fernleafs bloom early and have dark red blossoms that are either single or double petaled. Despite their rarity, they are easy to grow.
Easy Fernleafs to Grow
The single fernleaf (P. tenuifolia) has deep red single-petaled flowers.
Double fernleaf ('Rubra Plena' or 'Flora Plena') is pictured right. It looks exactly like the single fernleaf save that it produces masses of double blossoms.
'Merry Mayshine' is a fern leaf hybrid that produces 5-inch bloodred flowers on sturdy, dark green foliage. It grows upright up to 24 inches tall and produces copious blooms in early spring. It won the American Peony Society's Award of Landscape Merit.
'Early Bird' is a dwarf hybrid with single, bright red flowers on fernleaf foliage. A cross between the P. tenuifolia and P. veitchii woodwardii, 'Early Bird' isn't a true fernleaf, but it sure looks like one. It blooms in early spring.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.