Peonies are garden flowers that produce brightly colored blooms in the late spring in red, violet, white and varying shades of pink. The hardiness and ease of caring for peonies adds to their popularity. There are nearly 30 species of peonies around the world, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, and several thousand different cultivars. Several types are particularly suited and popular in the garden.
Tree peonies have tough woody stems that persist year-round, and the peonies themselves grow into small shrubs that bear large flowers. The tree peony loses its leaves in the fall. Because the plant remains year-round, it has somewhat less tolerance to cold and wind. Choose a site where your tree peony isn’t exposed to hot, damaging afternoon sun to protect the flowers from sun damage, advises the Clemson Cooperative Extension.
In addition to deep-red flowers, fernleaf peonies develop delicate, feathery foliage resembling the leaves of a small fern. Fernleafs remain smaller than other garden peonies, generally growing no larger than 20 inches. Fernleaf peonies tend to be more expensive and harder to find than most garden peonies, thanks to the difficulty in propagating them, as Iowa State University Extension points out. Once planted, however, the fernleaf peony requires no extra care than a normal garden peony and regrows annually for years.
Double peonies have a second row of petals inside of the broad outer row of petals. Within the double classification, there are several subtypes, based on the shape and size of the second row of petals. Japanese types have a long, thin inner row of petals. Double, semi-double and anemone peonies have broad inner petals and vary based on the shape that those petals assume.
Single peonies, also called Chinese peonies, possess a single row of broad petals. At the plant’s center is a clump of yellow stamens, giving the single peony a daisy-like appearance. Single peonies come in an array of colors, such as pink, red, white and yellow.