Peonies are a popular garden favorite that produce large, often fragrant, summer blooms. They grow well in a variety of soil types, although they prefer well-drained, neutral soil with plenty of sun. Special care must be taken to plant peonies no deeper than two inches and at least three feet apart, or they could fail to bloom, and adequate watering and weed control are important to keep them looking their best. There are hundreds of species of peony in various colors, although red, pink and white are the "true" peony hues. Some breeders cultivate yellow peonies that can command top dollar.
Red peonies may be a bright crimson, or even a light orangey coral.
Shades of red vary from dark maroon to coral, with the deeper shades mostly hybrids. Many of the brighter red species are of the double-flowered type. Popular red peonies include the Longfellow, Karl Rosenfeld, Kansas, Mikado and Kickapoo species, all commonly available at most nurseries. Rarer species include the Carol, Henry Bockstoce, Battle Flag and Douglas Brand, and may require a bit more searching through specialty nurseries.
Brighter pink peonies are usually double-flowered.
Pink peonies vary from light mauve to magenta, and some even have hints of purple at the tips of their petals. Brighter pinks tend to be double-flowered types, while the pale pink are usually of the single-flowered or Japanese types. Common varieties include the Tokio, Helen, Doris Cooper and Queen of Hamburg species, while the Roselet, Raspberry Sundae and Beautiful Senorita may be more difficult to track down.
Some white peonies can have pink or red streaks.
White peonies may be creamy white all the way through, or may have centers in shades of yellow. Some varieties, like the Circus Circus, have ruffled white petals with streaks of red or pink. Popular species include the Hedgemaster, Avalanche and Moon of Nippon, but rarer species like the Top Brass, Miss America and Kelways Glorious produce more extravagant blooms as payoff for the search entailed in tracking them down.
Pale ivory peonies with pink-tipped petals are classified as yellow.
Some peonies classified as "yellow" species, like the Golden Bracelet and the Luella Shaylor, are really white peonies with large yellow centers or tinges of yellow at the base of the petals. The only herbaceous peony in a true yellow shade is the Moloko, which is an extremely rare species that occurs in the wild. Most yellow peonies are hybrids cultivated by breeders, and include species like the Bartzella and Garden Treasure that sell for hundreds of dollars. Some varieties like the Prairie Moon and Goldilocks are a pale, creamy ivory with tinges of yellow, and are more commonly available and much more affordable.