About Species Peonies
Rare and Unusual Peonies From the Wild
The Wild Ones
Rare and often threatened in their native habitats
Species peonies are the wild plants that served as the first generation parents of our modern day hybrids and are now rare in nature. These gems of the genus Paeonia have seen a resurgence in popularity and are in high demand by gardeners worldwide. Both woody and herbaceous groups are represented among the species, all with somewhat more exacting needs than their hybrid offspring.
Many are smaller growing plants with foliage that is often truly unique, making them sought after additions to the garden. Many are outstanding candidates for the sharply drained rock garden, which promotes healthy growth and needed micro-climates.
Flowers are often single in form and are generally smaller than what is seen in the hybrids. Many of the smaller species have nodding flowers, presented well before other peonies come into bloom.
Of the 48 or so species, a number are of relatively easy culture and these make excellent plants to begin the experience of growing wild peonies. Most are cold hardy, even if coming from warmer climates, but may have difficulties with excessive water in garden situations. Performing some research into the background of a species is a wise idea before attempting to grow them and will help insure success.
Growing the species from seed is a great way to get started and will help conserve the wild populations. Experiencing the novelty and beauty of these unusual plants through their various life stages will surely satisfy any gardener. To get started, consider purchasing some seed of these gems through the American Peony Society’s Seed Distribution Program.
Peony Species Culture
Growing the Gems From the Wild
Species peonies are enjoyable to grow, but may present some challenges compared to the hybrids and P. lactiflora cultivars. Water in the environment appears to be the biggest barrier to growing many of them well. Species peonies require sharply drained soil and a few in particular are intolerant of water during certain periods of the year. However, there are plenty of others that are less needy in their cultural requirements, which will serve gardeners well.
There is likely a species for everyone’s particular garden micro-climate, as some do well in shade and others in full sun. Most are cold hardy and are well suited to rock garden siting. Soil amendment will often enable gardeners to grow those species that struggle in North American environments. Getting to know them before planting is enjoyable and will likely pay dividends.
See Additional Resources below for more detailed information about growing Paeonia species.
Peony Species Propagation
Best Practices For Producing More Rarities
Propagation of species peonies is best done through growing seed. Division is often difficult due to crown and root arrangement or results in plants failing to grow. However, it is a noble activity that helps protect wild populations from the collection of plants. Purchase of wild collected species should be avoided at all costs, as this practice diminishes wild populations.
Care and planning are part of propagating these rarities, but can be accomplished by the dedicated gardener. Seeds are not difficult to grow and some species are more easily grown than others. Starting out with a common species will provide much needed experience and will likely start an addiction-growing species Paeonia.
See Additional Resources below for more detailed information.