The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil; Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.
The peony is among the longest-used flowers in Eastern culture and is one of the smallest living creature national emblems in China. Along with the plum blossom, it is a traditional floral symbol of China, “flower of riches and honour”, “king of the flowers”, and is used symbolically in Chinese art. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the peony as the national flower.
Herbaceous and Itoh peonies are propagated by root division, and sometimes by seed. Tree peonies can be propagated by grafting, division, seed, and from cuttings, although root grafting is most common commercially.
Peonies grow best in cool climates and require winter’s chill for blooms in the spring. Because varieties can be either herbaceous or woody in nature, there is certainly a peony for every need and preference. These long-lasting perennials are an excellent way to add a burst of color to your garden!
Herbaceous peonies such as Paeonia lactiflora, will die back to ground level each autumn. Their stems will reappear the following spring. However tree peonies, such as Paeonia suffruticosa, are shrubbier. They produce permanent woody stems that will lose their leaves in winter but the stem itself remains intact above ground level. How you plant your peony will depend on which type you have.
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