Duchesse de Nemours Peony: An Heirloom White Peony With Soft, Fluffy Petals

Pale white peonies are not common, but one of the most popular is the Duchesse de Nemours Peony.

Duchesse de Nemours Peony is an heirloom white peony cultivar with double petals. The fragrant flowers are 5″-6″ across and have a classic soft and fluffy appearance. These herbaceous perennials grow about three feet tall, blooming best in full sun planting locations with moist, well-draining soil. The Duchesse de Nemours peony is a cultivar of Paeonia lactiflora bred in France in the mid 1800’s by peony breeder Calot.

Read on to learn all about the Duchesse de Nemours Peony!

Duchesse de nemours peony flower
Duchesse de nemours peony: an heirloom white peony with soft, fluffy petals

Duchesse de Nemours Peony: The Basics

The Duchesse de Nemours Peony has been gracing gardens for well over a hundred and fifty years. This gorgeous cultivar was introduced by French peony breeder Calot in 1856, as a hybrid cultivar of Paeonia lactiflora. The Duchesse de Nemours Peony would go on to receive the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

The flowers of Duchesse de Nemours are termed “Doubles”, as they have multiple layers of petals. These big, fluffy, puffball-like flowers are among the largest types of peony blooms (and certainly the heaviest!). Other types of double peonies include Karl Rosenfeld Peony, Sarah Bernhardt Peony, and Festiva Maxima Peony.

The Duchesse de Nemours Peony grows to be about three feet tall with a similar width. It has green foliage and boasts magnificent white flowers that grow to be between 5″-6″ wide each.

Buying duchesse de nemours peony plants at garden center
Duchesse de nemours peony: an heirloom white peony with soft, fluffy petals

Buying Duchesse de Nemours Peony Plants

Here are some nurseries that carry Duchesse de Nemours Peony plants (typically shipped in spring/fall):

Duchesse de nemours peony flower on the plant in the garden
Duchesse de nemours peony: an heirloom white peony with soft, fluffy petals

What Type Of Peony Is The Duchesse de Nemours Peony Classified As?

Duchesse de Nemours Peony plants (Paeonia lactifloraDuchesse de Nemours’) are herbaceous peony plants with Full Double-type peony flowers that bloom during the late midseason of peony flowering season (typically blooming in late spring to early summer).

Peonies come in six main types of flower forms: Single, Anemone, Japanese, Semi-Double, Bombe, and Full Double. Full Double peonies like Duchesse de Nemours are known for their voluminous layers of petals. In this flower type, all stamens and carpels are transformed into petals. Double peonies look like a flower inside a flower (hence the term “double”).

There are three main types of peony plants: tree, herbaceous, and intersectional. Duchesse de Nemours peonies are among the herbaceous category of peony plants. These plants sprout anew from their roots each spring, and will typically grow to be about 3 feet tall by the middle of spring. Then, they will bloom and go on to display beautiful foliage throughout summer and even into early fall. They usually die back to their roots after the first hard frost comes.

Bare root white duchesse peony
Duchesse de nemours peony: an heirloom white peony with soft, fluffy petals

Planting Duchesse de Nemours Peony In The Garden

Duchesse de Nemours peony plants are easy to plant in the garden. Most often they are sold as bare roots, which are available in garden centers in the spring and for shipping from specialty nurseries in the fall. Some spring garden centers carry potted Duchesse de Nemours plants.

Choose a planting location in full sun, where the leaves of the plant can receive 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Look for a place with well-draining soil (although these peonies are tolerant of clay soil, as long as it isn’t ponded with water). If planting in fall (the preferred time to plant), try to get the plants in the ground at least 6 weeks before the ground freezes.

Peony plants, especially bare root peonies, should be planted carefully to ensure they are not placed too deep. The knobby crown at the top of the roots and the bud “eyes” should be about 1″ below the surface of the soil. Peony plants buried under 2″ of soil may not bloom properly in future years.

Here are detailed instructions for planting peonies in the garden:

Duchesse de nemours peony flowers
Duchesse de nemours peony: an heirloom white peony with soft, fluffy petals

Growing Duchesse de Nemours Peony Plants

Like most peonies, the Duchesse de Nemours requires only minimal maintenance as long as they’ve been planted in the right spot.

While Peonies don’t need a lot of attention, it is a good idea to give heavy-flowered varieties like Duchesse de Nemours some kind of support for their stems. This can be wooden stakes, metal peony circles, or even tomato cages. Peonies don’t mind metal, so don’t worry about that bothering them.

The Duchesse de Nemours only blooms in spring, but is resilient throughout the year When the blooms start to die down at the beginning of summer, it’s time to start cutting them back. They should be cut back a little way into the foliage so that the stem doesn’t stick out.

Along with trimming back dying blossoms, you should also trim the peony plant’s foliage to the ground before each winter to protect it from overwintering.

There’s no need to mulch them heavily in the winter, except possibly in Zones 2-3. If you do decide to mulch them in warmer zones, a light mulching will be fine. Peonies are very cold-hardy! Wait until soil is frozen to apply the winter protective mulch.

Pests and Diseases

Fortunately, Peonies aren’t vulnerable to many pests. Not only do they resist deer and rabbits, but they also have a symbiotic relationship with ants that protects them from things like slugs or aphids. They can, however, contract a variety of diseases if you aren’t careful with them.

Peonies are vulnerable to powder mildew, which is rarely lethal but can make life much more difficult for them. The best way to prevent this is to keep them in the sunlight and to treat any signs of mildew right away. Plenty of sunlight will not only help the plant grow healthily but also suppress any fungus growing on it.

Many infections that peonies can suffer from require you to either remove the affected part of the plant to remove the plant altogether. Never leave dead plant foliage, stems, or roots in your garden!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also an engineer and certified permaculture garden designer. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.