OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Paeonia officinalis
Paeonia officinalis

The peony in early sources


Description       Propagation       Cultivation         Harvest

Scientific name

Paoenia officinalis
Common names, modern Common peony, European peony; in Britain, the only place it grows wild is Steep Holmes, in the Severn.  



Once established, peonies grow for decades, and perhaps for centuries.

Cold hardiness Hardy to -28o (zones 2-8), and requires cold winters for flowering
Size 24" to 36" high, 24" wide

Rounded, full, very pretty plants


Peonies flower in spring; cultivars may be early, mid, or late spring blooming. Many modern cultivars have large blooms that are too heavy for stems; use peony cages to support these. Paeonia officinalis, which blooms in mid-spring, doesn't have this problem. Deadhead plant when flowering is done if you don't want to collect seed.

Peony foliageFoliage

Dark green, lobed leaves; when plant has died back to the ground in the fall, remove the dead foliage to prevent disease.

Peony seed

By seed

Plants come true from seed, taking 4-5 years to flower.
Germination temperature Plant seed in pots in cold frame and overwinter outside.
Germination time

Comes best from very fresh seed, so harvest and then plant quickly. Keep in original pots in cold frame for two seasons, as roots are very fragile. Be sure to water and fertilize through first two growing seasons before planting out where you want them to grow on in their second fall.

Moisture Water regularly



Well-drained, rich, neutral to slightly alkaline soil; plant 3-4 feet apart; set root with eyes no more than 2" below soil surface or plants won't bloom.

Moisture Likes moist but not soggy soil, but tolerates some dryness
Light 6-8 hours of sun a day; will tolerate light shade
Natural habitat Meadows, meadows, well-drained locations
Vigor Once established in a  spot they like, peonies are very healthy and long-lived.

Phytophthora blight and verticillium wilt may cause leaf blotch; affected plants should be destroyed. One way to prevent disease is to avoid overhead watering. Peony wilt is caused by Botrytis paeoniae; remove diseased foliage from the plant and the garden immediately to prevent further infection.


Scale may be a concern; control with insecticidal soap. Peonies often play host to ants, but these are only collecting nectar from the buds, are not a problem, and can actually be helpful in the garden.

Season to bloom/
Early spring
Seed collection Collect as soon as ripe and plant immediately


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Botanists are among those who know that, in spite of the rude shocks of life,
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F.D. Drewitt


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