Meaning, Symbolisim, Varieties and Care Tips.
The large, luxurious taffeta-like flower head of the peony is unmistakable. Luscious and lovely it's easy to see why this flower is so popular with gardeners, florists, brides and flower lovers alike.
If you adore these beautiful blooms as much as we do you've come to the right place to find out everything you need to know about peonies. Here you'll discover what peonies mean, how to care for them, available colours and varieties plus a few interesting facts too.
Peonies are native to China where they have been cultivated for more than 1,000 years. There they are known affectionately as 'sho yu', which translates as 'most beautiful'. In Chinese culture peonies represent riches, prosperity and honour. The peony also enjoyed recognition as the country's national flower up until 1929.
Mythological meaning of peonies
It is said that the peony takes its name from a character in Greek mythology called Paeon. Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the God of Medicine, and when Paeon started to show more promise than the God himself, Zeus had to turn Paeon into a peony to protect him from Asclepius' wrath.
Peonies are also associated with shamefulness and bashfulness. This is because Greek mythology tells us that nymphs would hide their naked forms inside peony flowers to shield themselves from prying eyes.
Peonies are a popular choice of wedding flower because they symbolise good fortune and a happy marriage.
A slightly darker side to peonies comes from the superstition that if you have a peony bush in your garden and the flowers bloom in the spring, you are going to have good fortune. However, if the bush dries up and the flowers fade - disaster is coming.
Peony flowers come in a range of colours which also have their own, unique meanings:
Pink peonies symbolise romance and beauty, which is why they are a very popular choice for weddings. Did you know that pink peonies are also usually more fragrant than red peonies?
White peonies symbolise bashfulness and are traditionally given when a person is feeling embarrassed by their words or actions.
Red peonies are a symbol of wealth, honor and respect. In ancient China they were gifted to the nobility.
These beautiful flowers are quite interesting too. Here's a few things you probably didn't know about peonies:
- Peonies are the 12th anniversary flower.
- In medieval times peonies were treasured by the church and royalty because it was believed that had medicinal properties, which could cure epilepsy, convulsions and even lunacy.
- Luoyang, a city in China is often referred to as peony city. It has a national peony garden which holds over 100 different varieties, and an annual peony festival. Peony lovers this is the city for you!
There are over 3,000 varieties of peony, which belong to the Paeoniaceae family.
We've narrowed it down to some of the most popular:
The tree peony has a very woody stem that doesn't work well in flower arrangements. Unlike the name suggests, tree peonies are actually shrubs, which, when planted in a good spot will last a very long time. Their large, fluffy blooms come in many colours including yellow, pink, red and white.
These peonies are the oldest and most common variety. Florists typically use these in designs and arrangements because of their long, elegant stems. There are different types of herbaceous peony (single, double, semi-double and Japanese) named after the way the petals form. The most unusual of these is the japanese peony, which is instantly recognisable due to the stamen standing proud and clustering in the centre, surrounded by a group of guard petals. Quite often, Japanese peonies are two-toned giving them a wonderful, unique colouring.
Intersectional peony (also known as Itoh)
This variety of peony comes in a wider range of colours than the other varieties. Youll find coral, mahogany, purple and bright yellow. They are a cross between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies, meaning you get the large, wonderful blooms from the tree variety along with the quick growing nature of the herbaceous peony. They are more expensive and rare than the other varieties, but also last twice as long as herbaceous peonies, so are worth the extra expense.
Exuding feminine charm and timeless beauty, peonies look stunning displayed on their own or work just as well with other old-fashioned blooms such as roses, delphiniums and lilacs. To create an arrangement that smells as good as it looks choose to display with fragrant stocks.
buy your peonies when they are fresh cut and still in bud stage so that you can enjoy the full blooming process. If you get peonies that are already fully open, they will look gorgeous but will only last a few days at most.
Note- Peonies prefer to be placed directly in water and do not suit being placed in foam as it causes them to wilt.
Style tip - Peonies look great as a large bunch of flowers in one vase, but can also hold their own as a few stems in smaller vases scattered around your home.
As peonies are such wonderful flowers, you'll want them to last as long as possible. Heres how to get the most from your peony flowers:
- If looked after well, peonies have a vase life of around 5-10 days. Prepare your peony bouquet by diagonally trimming the stems by roughly an inch.
- Remove any leaves that will fall below the water line. This will reduce the build up of bacteria in the water and keep your peonies fresher for longer.
- Fill your vase with cool, clean water and add your peony flowers.
- The peonies will take a few days to fully open. Bear in mind that they'll open faster in a warm room and slower in cooler area.
- They are thirsty flowers so make sure you keep the water topped up..
- Change the water and re-trim the stems every few days to maximise vase life..