Most of the peony species bloom before the regular cultivars of lactiflora and its’ hybrids. By planting some of these it is possible to enjoy a much longer peony season and there are many attractive species amongst them with both interesting foliage and pretty flowers. The bloom dates are usually compared to the widely grown hybrid cultivar Red Charm and the number of days before or after are then used to give an indication of its earliness or lateness. This way seasonal and geographic differences are less important and more observations make the data more reliable. Unfortunately the species are not too widely grown and thus observations of the blooming dates are not too common. There is a ‘bloom date project’ at the American Peony Society where you can see these dates for many cultivars, including several of the species. However, when it comes to the species, most are based on a single observation, thus reliability is not too high. Next to that, many of the species grown are not true-to-name but so-called garden hybrids, as different species grown together often give hybrid seeds, thus dates given may not always be for the true species. Last, many species are absent from the list, reflecting the fact that many are nearly impossible to get or to grow.

Paeonia caucasica (P. daurica ssp coriifolia) and P. wittmanniana (P. daurica ssp wittmanniana) growing together in nature in the Caucasus. Image by Igor Uspensky

The list of the American Peony Society gives the following results for some species:

Species/cultivar nameRemarkNumber of observationsDays before Red Charm
AnikaProbably P. x lagodechiana (P. mlokosewitchii x P. caucasica)3-37
P. caucasicaOfficial name nowadays P. daurica ssp coriifolia4-34
P. mollisA form of P. officinalis1-30
P. kavachensisA form of P. caucasica3-28
SydneyVery early triple hybrid2-27
P. caucasica ex Tbilisi1-24
P. mascula1-23
P. villosaA form of P. officinalis13-22
P. broteriTwice in the list1-21
P. cambessedesii1-21
P. daurica1-21
P. obovata ssp willmottiae1-21
P. tenuifolia57-20
P. veitchii18-16
P. mlokosewitschiiP. daurica ssp mlokosewitschii6-15
P. anomala22-13
P. peregrina4-13
P. broterii3-11
P. triternataP. daurica ssp daurica2-9

A second listing was published by an enthusiastic peony species collector named Galen Burrell1

Species/cultivar nameRemarkBlooming Date ’95
Paeonia ruprechtianaA form of P. caucasicaMarch 31
Paeonia x lagodechianaP. mlokosewitschii x P. caucasicaApril 1
Paeonia “AnikaidemApril 2
Paeonia coriaceaApril 4
Paeonia officinalis banaticaApril 18
Paeonia delavayiApril 20
Paeonia obovata albaApril 21
Paeonia japonicaApril 22
Paeonia tenuifolia roseaApril 23
Paeonia mlokosewitschiiApril 23
Paeonia wittmanniana macrophyllaPaeonia daurica ssp macrophyllaApril 23
Paeonia officinalis villosaApril 24
Paeonia officinalis officinalisApril 27
Paeonia cambessedesiiApril 28
“Rock’s Tree Peony”Paeonia rockii “Rockii”April 29
Paeonia mascula arietina “Northern Glory”Paeonia arietina “Northern Glory”April 30
Paeonia luteaYellow flowered form of P. delavayiMay 2
Paeonia mascula arietinaPaeonia arietinaMay 2
Paeonia browniiMay 2
Paeonia potanini trollioidesAnother form of P. delavayiMay 3
Paeonia mascula triternataPaeonia daurica ssp dauricaMay 5
Mai FleuriP. lactiflora x P. wittmannianaMay 6
Paeonia veitchiiMay 12
Tree peony “Boreas”P. delavayi hybrid cultivarMay 13
Paeonia veitchii beresowskiiMay 16
Coral CharmHybrid cultivarMay 19
Paeonia peregrinaMay 20
“Seashell”P. lactiflora cultivarMay 27
Copyright Liberto Dario. Paeonia peregrina on Lefkada island (Greece). Full sun and limestone scree for this redder than red species that also appears on the mainland and in less harsh conditions."
Copyright Liberto Dario. Paeonia peregrina on Lefkada island (Greece). Full sun and limestone scree for this redder than red species that also appears on the mainland and in less harsh conditions."

The two lists are rather in agreement and could well be made into one list probably. “Coral Charm”, another widely grown cultivar, in the second list is in the first list stated as flowering 7 days after Red Charm so the number of days those species flower before Red Charm could be calculated as well. The number of days is obviously only a guideline that will differ from year to year, but the sequence of flowering should be more or less stable. Paeonia caucasica is nearly always given as the first one to flower, an observation I’ve also made myself. As paeonia caucasica is one of the easiest species to grow, it surely holds some more promise as a good garden subject. After the caucasica-related species/hybrids there is some gap with the others, therefore it would be nice to have data on more species not yet included to see if that peony-void can be filled. At the end of the season come P. peregrina and the ubiquitous P. lactiflora. Some species are rather variable in blooming dates, probably due to the larger territories they occupy giving more variation (P. delavayi, P. mascula, P. officinalis, P. anomala come to mind here).

It would be interesting to have a more reliable and comprehensive list probably, but the two lists above are the only ones I’m aware of. As I grow quite a few species myself I hope to add some more blooming dates of peony species. This may take a few years time as it is best to wait a few years until the plants are settled and have accustomed to the local conditions. If you grow at least two peony species, you are most welcome to add the blooming dates as well, this will make the list more reliable still. Just post them in the comments section below and we’ll see what we can do with them.

  1. Burrell, G. “Species peony bloom sequence, 1995.” In: American Peony Society Bulletin, nr 295, September 1995, p. 40.[]

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