Hundreds of varieties of peonies exist, so selecting one can be an exciting challenge. Their colors range from white to deep scarlet and their sizes range from small bushes to seven-foot tree varieties. If you order a peony from a mail-order catalog or the Internet, you will receive a bare root plant that you can plant in the fall if you have a well-drained location with partial shade. Fertilizer isn't needed if your soil is rich in organic matter. Within three years of planting your favorite peony variety, it will produce a multitude of large flowers. However, tree peonies take longer before they produce flowers.
Selecting the Right Peony
Decide on a budget for your peony purchase, because some varieties can cost over $100. Factor in the cost of shipping, or check with your local nursery to learn which varieties they carry.
Determine the time of year you want your peony to bloom because different varieties bloom at different times. For example, the "Abalone Pearl" blooms in early summer, whereas the "Duchess D'Orleans" is a late bloomer.
Order your peony to suit your sense of smell. Some peonies smell like citrus, while others smell like roses. The variety named "Bess Bockstoce," for example, has a strong rose scent, but one Internet catalog charges $60 for one bare root plant. (See Resources.)
Measure your planting area to determine the amount of space it will provide for your peony. Tree peonies have been popular for centuries and are available through Internet plant suppliers (see Resources), but they require up to 10 years to bloom prolifically. They also grow as tall as seven feet, with a five-foot width.
Order your peony in summer or fall because this plant is seasonal and many companies do not ship orders for them after mid-November each year.