How to Care for Fern Peonies


Fern peonies, also known as fern leaf peonies or Paeonia tenuifolia, are perennial shrubs valued for their large, ornamental flowers, ease of care and attractive foliage. The plants bloom during late spring and early summer, producing red flowers in single or double blossoms. Fern peonies are considerably rarer and more expensive than other varieties due to the difficulty of propagation, but container-grown specimens can usually be found in well-stocked nurseries. Native to temperate Europe, fern peonies thrive in zones 3 through 8 and require little care to cultivate throughout most of the United States.

Step 1

Plant fern peonies during early summer or fall in a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day and dappled afternoon shade, if possible. Ensure that the site consists of well-drained, fertile soil, and space fern peonies at least 3 to 4 feet apart to allow plenty of room for growth.

Step 2

Water thoroughly once every 10 to 14 days during spring, summer and fall to encourage deep root formation. Soak the soil surrounding the plants deeply at each application. Do not water during winter, when plants are not growing actively.

Step 3

Feed fern peonies once per year, during early spring just as new growth begins, using a low-nitrogen 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Apply at the rate recommended by the manufacturer's instructions for the best results. Do not allow fertilizer to touch the trunk of the plant, as burning could occur.

Step 4

Remove the seed heads that form after flowering ends to help fern peony plants conserve more nutrients for blooming the following season. Pinch off the seed heads at their point of origin to minimize damage and the risk of disease.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never prune fern peonies, as they will not grow back.


  • Iowa State University Cooperative Extension: Fernleaf Peony is a Precious Gem in the Garden
  • Clemson University Extension Home & Garden Information Center: Peonies
  • "Nevada Gardener's Guide"; Linn Mills and Dick Post; 2005

Who Can Help

  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: grow fern peonies, fern leaf peonies, Paeonia tenuifolia

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including