China is one of the largest nations on earth. As such, China is home to a dizzying array of flowers and flowering plants. However, a few have such strong cultural meaning and symbolism to be worthy of a closer look.
Peony is a frequent subject in Chinese art. Additionally, peonies play an important role in Chinese medicine. Several parts of the plant are used in medicine, including the bark and roots. You can plant peonies either in the fall or the spring as soon as the soil is workable. Peonies are planted using rhizomes that must be placed in the hole with the "eyes" facing up. The rhizomes should be an inch or two below the surface of the soil. Once planted, peony can grow for years in the same patch.
One plant that is associated strongly with China is tea. Tea is made from the leaves of camellia sinensis bushes and trees. Camellia sinensis can grow in many locations. However, the variety most commonly used for tea production is found higher in the mountains where it grows more slowly than at lower elevations. Camellia sinensis is usually pruned to keep it around 4 feet tall. Left to its own devices, the trees could easily reach 40 feet. Maintaining the trees as long hedgerows at 4 feet makes it easier to harvest the tea.
Plum trees are revered in Chinese culture. Because the plum blossoms often bloom before the tree grows leaves, they are associated with flowers growing from a seemingly dead tree. The five-petal blossoms are, in fact, the national symbol of the Republic of China. Its five petals are symbolic of the five blessings: old age, wealth, health, love of virtue, and a natural death. Plum trees grow in a variety of soils, but do best with partial to full sun.
Although native to India, the lotus, the sacred flower of Buddhism, is grown in many Chinese gardens. A water flower, the lotus is symbolic because its beautiful flower grows from underwater muck and mud. There are a number of varieties of lotus, ranging from dwarfs that can grow in small 1- to 3-foot-wide containers to full-size plants that require 10 or more feet of pond surface for their foot-wide circular leaves.