Peony Flower Bulbs – Peonies since 1000 BCE

Peony Flower Bulbs – Peonies since 1000 BCE

Peony Flower Bulbs and the History of Peonies

Peonies have a rich history in China, and you could have bought these Flowers in Europe for quite some time.

People used Peonies as medicine and food for a long time, and the flower has also been a source of inspiration for the artwork.

The Peony is a flowering plant in the genus Paeonia and the only genus in the Paeoniaceae family. It’s not sure yet, how many varieties of Peonies exist.
The Scientist guesses that there are between 25 and 40 varieties of Peonies, but the official count is 33. Wikipedia

The Origin of Peonies

Peony Flower - White

Let’s begin the story about the Peony Flower in China.

The People of China knew Peonies since 1000 BCE. However, it was not until the seventh century that Peony Flowers were grown as ornamental plants.

In the following T’ang dynasty, some Peony Flowers became very popular and got under imperial protection. People charged enormous sums for the best Peony Flower Bulbs.

During the tenth century, Peonies had spread throughout China, and Luoyang became the center for Peony culture – which it is today. Each year in April, Luoyang holds a festival to celebrate the Peony Flower.

During the Ch’ing dynasty (1644 to 1911), the Peony-Center changed to Chaozhou’s city. This city is known as HeZe today and is the second big Peony – Center in China. Like Luoyang, HeZe holds an International Peony Fair every year in April.

In HeZe and Luoyang alone, there are more than 800 hectares used to plant Peony Flowers.

The origin of Peonies is China, but how did Peony Flower Bulbs make it to Europe?

How the Peony Flower came to Europe

Peony Flower - Rose

As in the eastern world, the people cultivated peonies in Europe for their medicinal value. But much later in history, peonies began to be grown in Europe solely for their ornamental qualities.

Initially, European gardens included only herbaceous species. It was not until 1789 that the first tree peony came to Europe.

Having heard of these Peonies from earlier travelers to the orient, Sir Joseph Banks of Kew gardens had commissioned a doctor with the British East India Company to purchase and bring back a Tree Peony to England. The Peony Flower was brought to England by Dr. Duncan and subsequently planted at Kew Gardens.

Obtaining subsequent plants from China proved difficult, and it was not until the 1860s that Tree Peonies became generally available from European nurseries.

Chinese Tree Peonies were popular until the late 1800s when Europeans had discovered Japanese Tree Peonies. The lighter, more upright blooming Japanese Tree Peonies were generally preferred to the Chinese peonies’ heavy double blooms.

Still today, many of the Tree Peonies available in Europe are imported from Japan or China.

In the late 1800s, early 1900’s, European plant breeders used the plants from China and Japan to establish their breeding programs. However, it is essential to note that many Chinese and Japanese Tree Peonies became known by European names and European introductions.

A breakthrough in breeding Tree Peonies occurred when the French Peony breeders Victor and Émile Lemoine succeeded in crossing P x suffruticosa and P. lutea to create the first yellow hybrid Tree Peony.

This peony was named Alice Harding and was later used by Toichi Itoh in his work to create the intersectional cross between tree and herbaceous Peonies.

The popularity of Peonies in Europe declined in the earlier parts of this century, particularly in England. Today, however, Peonies are undergoing a resurgence of popularity throughout Europe.

How to plant Peony Flowers?

Peony Flower - Pink

When to Plant Peonies

The suitable time to plant Peony Flower Bulbs – is in early Winter.

Late October and November are the ideal months for transplanting and adding new varieties of peonies to your garden.

If you start in early Winter, it will benefit the root system’s formation before the onset of cold winter weather, supplying nutrients to the plants to grow and bloom in the upcoming spring.

Where to Plant Peonies

Dig a 20″-24″ deep and 24″ wide area for tree Peonies. Tree Peonies require a deep hole in which their roots can reach down to secure good anchorage.

Consequently, they demand very well-drained soil. Suppose your soil tends to become waterlogged; plant Peonies in a raised bed or a big pot. Remember standing water at the roots may kill Peonies.

Tree Peonies relish a well-composted soil, heavily enriched with hummus. They should not be grown in competition with other large root systems, but being deep-rooted, they will easily accommodate shallow-rooted plants grown around their base.

Also, Tree Peonies prefer sunlight, but the too strong sunlight may cause the Flowers to wither quickly during the blooming season. Thus, it is best to plant them in a semi-shady location.

They should not receive too much water. Otherwise, the roots of Tree Peonies may rot. If this occurs, the site should be drained well, preferably via a gentle slope or raised bed; also, the soil should be fertile with an ideal P.H. from 6.5 to 7.5 is the ideal. If the P.H. is lower than this, you may add a little lime. But Tree Peonies will tolerate a wide range.

How to Plant Tree Peonies

Hold the plant with one hand and use a tool with the other hand to fill the hole carefully. When the spot is two-thirds filled with earth, hold the branches upward slightly to make the roots spread, then continue to fill the gap until the soil rises a little. Tamp the soil firmly to remove the air and then water.

How to take care of Peonies?

Peony Flower - Red

How to Water Tree Peonies?

Tree Peonies don’t need extra watering under normal conditions. If scorched, they can be watered a little but avoid excessive water, drowning the roots and killing the plants. When they are growing and blooming during March and April, make sure they receive plenty of water if your weather condition is dry. After Flowering, provide supplemental water if conditions are drier than usual. Once established, tree Peonies are very drought-resistant.

Feeding Tree Peonies

Tree Peonies prefer rich, fertile soil. You should supply the fertilizer to them in the early spring or after the Flowers wither for more beautiful Peony Flowers. It is better to use a thoroughly rotted organic fertilizer. After Tree Peonies have finished blooming, you should remove the remaining Flower parts from the stems to avoid seed production, which takes much of the nutrients needed for Flowering in the next several years.

How to prune Tree Peonies?

You may prune Tree Peonies after their leaves have fallen. Prune out diseased or feeble branches, then remove stems and leaves from the garden. Pruning and trimming affect plant growth, Flower quality, visual effect, and life span of the plant. Eliminating dry, sick, or pest-damaged branches and redundant branches and buds can maintain the dynamic balance between the above-ground and below-ground parts of the plants. The distribution of branches may also be affected.

Disease control for Peonies

Although many people find that Tree Peonies are free from disease, they are, in fact, susceptible to several troubles, some of minor and others of significant importance. These diseases are of various types, including blights, stem rot, wilt, root-knot, leaf spots, and virus troubles.

Certain other cultural practices will also prove beneficial. When making new plantings, you should give the clumps adequate space to prevent the development of large dense clusters, which serve to promote conditions favorable to attacks of the fungus. For the same reason, old established plantings should be dug and divided when necessary. The use of sunny, open exposures will help prevent severe epidemics of the Botrytis blight disease. Field observations indicate that Peonies varieties vary widely concerning relative susceptibility to the disease.


Peony Flowers have a long history. Chinese people were the first to discover the Peony Flowers’ beauty, and it took a long time before they came to Europe.

As of today, it’s much easier to get Chinese Tree Peonies and Japanese Tree Peonies. With the global economy – it is cheaper to import Tree Peonies from other countries.

But some things did not change: Peony Flowers are still fabulous. There arent many varieties of peonies, but that’s making them rare and something unique.

If you did enjoy this article – you might also want to read All about Crocus Flowers.

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