Photo: Tie Guy II (Flickr)
The peony is the state flower of Indiana. Herbaceous peony plants produce their luscious blooms in May. There are also shrub-like peonies know as “tree” peonies, that bloom earlier.
Both types originated in China centuries ago and were probably admired by Marco Polo when he visited China in A.D. 1272. There are both single varieties, where the clusters of yellow stamens in the center of the flowers are a prominent feature, and doubles where the petals are so profuse that the stamens are hidden from view.
Peony crowns are planted in the fall and they eyes must be planted on 1 ½ inches below the soil in order to ensure bloom in the spring. They are extremely long lived. When they bloom they create a great display, especially if they are grouped or line a walk. Their bloom time is short, however, so they are best in a spot, by themselves, or at the back of a border.
They need some kind of support, such as a metal ring for them to grow through, as they are easily beaten down by storms. They signal the need for division when the center of the plant ceases flowering. Peonies are perfect for cutting and seem just to arrange themselves in a vase.