15 Little-known Facts about Peonies

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Avalanche peonies grown by Three Little Birds Peonies

Avalanche peonies grown by Three Little Birds Peonies

Peonies are native to Asia, Northern Europe, and Western North America. They usually bloom in the spring with the season running through June in most places. However, thanks to the cool climate and moist, well-drained soil they prefer, peony season can last until August in Alaska.

Peonies are best known for being large flowers with numerous petals that can reach up to 10 inches in diameter in a variety of colors. Depending on the species of peony, they will either grow as a herbaceous plant or as a semi-woody shrub or tree-like plant and can reach between one to nine feet in height.

Peonies are well known to florists and flower lovers alike for their ornate beauty. You, too, are probably familiar with this beautiful flower. But, how well do you know the peony?

Here are 15 little-known facts about peonies:

  1. Peonies come in every color except for blue.
  2. The vase life of the peony is about one week but some peonies can last longer with some plant food and love!
  3. Peonies are perennial plants and can survive for up to 100 years under the right conditions.
  4. The lighter pink peonies are more fragrant than the darker maroon flowers.
  5. There are roughly 25-40 different peony species. With no clear-cut guidelines between the species, scientists argue over the plant’s distinction from each other so there is no exact answer to how many species there actually are.
  6. Peonies like a cool climate. That’s why they grow so well in Alaska! To flower, tree peonies need between 100-300 hours of temperatures below 40 degrees, and herbaceous peonies require at least 400 hours. Peonies often fail to bloom in warm climates.
  7. Ants help peonies bloom. Ants are attracted to a nectar that the flower bud produces. They will climb up the plant and help open the buds to get to the nectar that is inside. The peony will bloom without the ants’ assistance, but they help the process along. Ants also help the peonies by keeping other, damaging insects away.
  8. Peonies need extra potassium for disease resistance and stem strength.
  9. The peony gets its name from a character in Greek mythology, Paeon. The story says that Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Paeon had a natural ability to heal which caused Asclepius to become jealous, so he sets out to get rid of Paeon. Zeus saves Paeon from Asclepius’ wrath by taking him out of Olympus and turning him into a flower (the peony) on Earth.
  10. The Chinese name for the peony is sho yu, which means ‘most beautiful.’
  11. Marco Polo is said to have called peonies “roses as big as cabbages.”
  12. Peonies are traditionally used to celebrate the 12th wedding anniversary.
  13. In China, the peony represents honor, prosperity, and riches.
  14. In China, peony paintings are often used to decorate homes and offices due to the belief that they can ensure good luck and successful business.
  15. The roots, seeds, bark and flower of the peony can be used for medicinal purposes. The Chinese first used them as pain relievers. They were brought to Europe in the early 1200’s and used to ease the pain of childbirth, cure gallstones, and ward off evil spirits. They are still used in Eastern medicine but have not been popular in Western medicine since the middle ages.

Peonies are resplendent flowers perfect for any occasion from wedding bouquets and arrangements to well wishes to home décor. The next time you are in the market, call on Three Little Birds Peonies, for some of the biggest and most vibrant peonies grown in Alaska.

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