Hidden Springs Flower Farm
PO Box 602
18581 County Road 4
Spring Grove, MN 55974
(763) 218-4540

H.S.F.F. Articles

Paeonia Species Article

Mailing Address/Office:
Hidden Springs Flower Farm
PO Box 602
18581 County Road 4
Spring Grove, MN 55974

Species Peonies

Rare and precious species peonies. Perfect for the gardener looking for something wild yet gracious and unique for their gardens.  If you are interested in species, including the fern leaf peony the best time to order is when the new list is posted in November. By the time spring arrives most are sold out already.

Most peony species are now protected in their native countries and unavailable. For the beginning gardener we recommend starting with the hybrid peonies that are more tolerant of their growing conditions. See the hybrid peony page for more suggestions. We urge you to read the notes at the end of this page carefully.

Paeonia arietina Elfriede Fischbacher A rare color form of the species. Paeonia daurica mlokosewitschii the rare wild yellow peony.Paeonia tenuifolia rosea Rare Pink Wild Fern Leaf Peony
Paeonia officinalis officinalis

Paeonia officinalis officinalis SOLD OUT  (wild species 1753)
Grown from wild collected seed from several areas of Europe. The plants grow to 24 tall and are very early blooming with rosy pink flowers. They are mountian growing plants at the tree line and are well adapted to dry well drained sites in full sun. These will be 2-3 eye divisions from mature plants. Very fertile with other tetraploid species and rewarding for those wishing to try growing peony species from seed.


[Sold Out.]

White Memorial Day Peony.

Paeonia officinalis alba plena RARE White Double Memorial Day Peony SOLD OUT

This is the rarer white form of the Memorial Day Peony that our ancestors grew about their farm house. It will show some pink frosting on the edges in cooler weather which actually looks very nice. It has produced a few rare hybrids as the seed parent so is useful for the peony breeder. Very Limited supply. Mature 3 eye blooming size divisions.

We have a very limited number in pots at the nursery for our local customers.


[Updating for final offerings for 2015.]

Pink Memorial Day Peony.

Paeonia officinalis rosea plena Pink Double Memorial Day Peony SOLD OUT  (ancient cultivated species 1613)

This pink double flowered form of the Memorial Day Peony has exceptional color and form on compact plants which at maturity will be about 4 feet across. Found throughout Europe in the wake of old monasteries where they were cultivated in medicinal gardens for centuries this species still adorns our gardens today. For those seeking doubleness in their hybrid peonies this has been a successful fertile seed producer but requires that you help the process along by applying the pollen to the stigma as it is normally concealed from the bees by the many extra petals. Known to be tolerant of warm climates it is a good choice for those wanting to experiment in more southern locations where the regular garden peony is more challenging to grow. Week 3 bloom date rating.

We have a limited number in large pots at the nursery for our local customers.


[Updating for final offerings for 2015.]

Red Memorial Day Peony.

Paeonia officinalis rubra plena Red Memorial Day Peony SOLD OUT  (ancient species known since 1581)

The Red Memorial Day Peony of intense brilliant crimson red color cultivated for centuries in Europe is a true antique of great garden value yet today. Easy to grow in warmer climates than many peonies. The mildly and pleasantly fragrant blooms are a welcome gift to friends. Plant in full sun in a well drained soil. Week 3 bloom date rating.

We have a very limited number in large pots at the nursery for our local customers.


[Updating for final offerings for 2015.]

Paeonia peregrina Sunshine

Paeonia peregrina 'Sunshine' SOLD OUT  (selected form of species)
This is a selected clone of the species used successfully to create salmon, coral, flamingo or cherry colored hybrids. 20 Easy to please its bright red cup shaped flowers and deep green leaves are a perfect compliment to one another. Used by Saunders and Glasscock to produce many of the most collectable hybrids today. Needs full sun and a well drained soil. Week 4 bloom date rating.


[Sold out.]

Paeonia tenuifolia Wild Fern Leaf Peony

Paeonia tenuifolia Single Fern Leaf Peony ALL SOLD OUT FOR 2015  (wild species 1759)

Single Fern Leaf Peony This pixie-like wild botanical fern-leaf peony is just the way nature made it. Small enough to look right at home in a sunny rock garden. Much more dainty than the double flowered form at only 12” tall. It must have well drained soil and it will go dormant as early as August and should not be over watered then. It is fertile and will produce seed so it can be used in hybridizing new plants or you can grow your own next generation of fern leaf peonies. The root structure is naturally small. Mature 3 eye divisions. Week 1 bloom date rating. We have begun to use this peony to create a whole new group of dwarf early blooming peonies.


[Updating for final offerings for 2015.]

Paeonia tenuifolia flore plena Double Red Fernleaf Peony

Paeonia tenuifolia flore plena Double Fern Leaf Peony All SOLD OUT for 2015  (ancient species 1836)

Double Fern Leaf Peony is scarlet, lipstick red and the earliest blooming of the double peonies. It must be grown in well drained soil in full all day sun. It can go dormant in early summer and should not be over watered at that time. Water from automatic sprinklers has been known to kill this plant so be sure and plant it where you can control the amount of water it will receive and cut back on watering once it starts to go dormant. Crowding by other plants or invading tree or shrub roots will also weaken and kill it. It is incredibly hardy when grown properly and is found growing in abandoned cemeteries in the open prairies which gives us a clue that it will thrive more easily in a fully exposed area with little extra care once established. Mature 3 eye divisions. Week 1 bloom date rating it is one of the first peonies to bloom in many gardens.


[Updating for final offerings for 2015.]

It is obvious from the review of peony literature and actual growing research done over the past 30 years that species peonies are very often misidentified and could best be described as a mess. Hong De-Yuan's recent book on the genus paeonia, Peonies of the World published in 2010 with Part 2 released recently bring a great deal of order to correcting the inaccuracies found in peony species identification. Some of the species offered are identified as accurately as possible to the best of our knowledge. Seedlings grown from wild collected seed have been misidentified often as one species and bloomed out as another. Until we had a chance to compare them to another similar species or key them out with the new information just published we have grown some plants under an older and what is now considered an incorrect name for decades. A good example is the one now identified as P. arietina which we received as P. mascula wild collected seed. This situation has not been helped with a multiplicity of names applied to the same species or the same name being applied to several different species.

One example is that P. peregrina has been called: P. officinalis var. peregrina, P. decora, P. decora var. pallasii, P. decora elatior, P. lobata, P. officinalis, P. multifida, P. romanica, P. tartarica, P. officinalis var. tartarica, P. byzanthina and P. byzanthina subspecies decora. In addition 7 other species have at one time or another been named as varieties of P. peregrina under several different names. All together 29 names have been misapplied to just this one species now properly called Paeonia peregrina. For the plant breeder this means that we don't know if P. officinalis listed as a parent of some of our most brilliant red hybrids was actually P. peregrina or even the recently described Paeonia saueri as some of the offspring look very peregrina like and not at all like P. officinalis. P. off. James Crawford Wegeulin is in all likeliness a selection of P. peregrina or a fertile hybrid of it or again perhaps a P. saueri hybrid. From the plant habit and the way it responds as a seed parent I suspect P. peregrina Sunshine is a hybrid with one parent being P. peregrine and the other parent unknown.

In my 30 years of growing species peonies it took 15 years to finally secure the yellow form of P. daurica mlokosewitschii grown from seed from a friend in Germany and at least that long to get a true P. anomala anomala. My wish list still includes: P. saurei, and P. parnassica. If you grow either of these please or know of a reputable source I would appreciate if you would get in touch. In the last few years I have been unsuccessful in finding any source of authentic wild peony species plants or seeds.

Several species have not proved successful under my growing conditions, namely P. broteri, P. cambessedesii, P. daurica tomentosa, P. ludlowii and P. brownii lingered for several years getting smaller every year until it no longer survived. Several species have not been trialed since I have not been able to find a seed source. Others have just held on with occasional flowering such as P. daurica wittmanniana which grows in a dappled sun woodland amongst limestone rock in its native habitat.

I killed several mature plants and many seedlings of P. obovata and was not successful until I had a good understanding of the natural growing conditions of P. obovata. They are woodland plants with the growing buds found at ground level growing in a loose woodland type duff of decomposing leaves and most importantly growing in dappled shade for a good part of the day. My attempts to plant the eyes 1-2 inches deep and in full sun met with failure. What you know about growing the common garden peony may not apply to the wild species. Some are found in calcareous (limestone) soils and may benefit from the addition of lime if the soil is acidic. They often come from areas with excellent soil drainage and photos of them in their native habitat clearly show their affinity for rocky soils.

Some peony species recover very slowly from division and are not as forgiving as the common garden peony, P. lactiflora. P. daurica mlokosewitschii takes over 6 years to reach division size often only allowing for one division to sell and one to replant. Neither do the species make the neat and often numerous 3-5 eye divisions we get from P. lactiflora cultivars. If so they would be more readily available in the specialty plant trade.

Most of the peony species are threatened or endangered in their native areas of origin hence the inability to locate seed or plant material for propagation or use in breeding. These are precious plants that we offer and deserve excellent care on your part.

Please don't feel obligated to buy any of the species listed if you are not up to giving them the best care possible which includes excellent soil preparation consisting of a well-drained and aerated soil. Most often this means adding a good quality milled sphagnum peat moss at a rate of 1 part peat moss to 3 parts of the existing soil well mixed NEVER LAYERED. Never plant in a soggy location or one subjected to spring flooding even for a short period of time. Time after time gardeners on heavy clay soils have reported losses of species and their hybrids when they failed to make the proper preparations with a raised bed that included amended soils. Gravelly, sandy soils with the addition of peat moss have been the most satisfactory except for the species P. obovata.

Mature divisions of the peony species may have only 2 eyes naturally depending on the species growth habit which is how nature made them. If you look at the photos on the web from their native habitat many are single stemmed flowering plants all their lives, not massive clumps like P. lactiflora can grow to be.

As our world becomes smaller interest in these marvelous wild representatives of our beloved peony are being taken up by those who appreciate their simple beauty and wish to preserve them as their wild populations decrease to the point of being of concern and even needing protected status.

If you love the species you may wish to check out the hybrid peony pages that are the immediate decendants of some of the species and are often easier to grow than their wild parents.

Peony Species are the wild botanical forms of the peony found in nature or some ancient double flowered selections known as far back as the 1500's. As our world grows smaller preserving the plants and the genetics of these wild plants becomes more important. Species peonies from Hidden Springs Flower Farm are sold as fresh dug field divisions from mature flowering plants. For those that do not divide easily we have been seed propagating as many as we can hand pollenate and will be looking at selling plants or seedlings that are first bloom plants that are undivided in the future. This gives you a better start and all are grown in unprotected fields here in Minnesota's USDA Zone 4. Peony species are some of the more demanding and challenging of the types of peonies grown because they tolerate the least amount of crowding and die quickly in soggy wet soil conditions. Many come from alpine mountain habitats with rocky soils that provide excellent water drainage and root aeration. They are very intolerant of growing in pots which is why you are not finding them offered at the hardware or discount stores. Some of them go dormant very early in the season and so need special attention to siting in the garden to avoid overwatering at that time.

Species Peonies are often noted for their small and often dwarf plant habit like Paeonia veitchii and Paeonia tenuifolia which never need staking. The double flowered forms of Paeonia officinalis have a natural habit of producing a plant up to 4 feet wide.

Species peonies flowers are found in colors from pure white, soft pastel lavender, pink, vibrant red-orange, lipstick red, patterned flowers and even yellow.

Some of the first peonies to bloom in the perennial garden are the species peonies right along with some of the early blooming daffodils and tulips.

Species peonies have a wide range of plant sizes and foliage types from the fern leaf peonies narrow foliage to wide blue green foliage of the species from Soviet Georgia like Paeonia daurica ssp daurica (formerly named P. mascula triternata).

In many cases wild peonies are becoming more and more scarce as their native habitats are changed and destroyed by the actions of people. Some that we offer are now listed as rare, endangered or vulnerable in their native habitats. Our goal at Hidden Springs Flower Farm is to provide people access to not only the genetic material of these species but also the beauty that they provide in a more botanically minded gardenscape.

While we have a wide selection of species peonies the number of divisions is limited much more so than our other peonies which were bred and selected to be more productive from a commercial stand point. That means there will never likely be an over supply of these plants and few nurseries will devote the extra years needed to produce good field size divisions. To keep up with demand we are also growing hand pollenated species seedlings to stable 3 year olds. We hope you will explore the fascinating wild side of peonies by trying one in your garden. Happy Gardening! Harvey and Brigitte

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