Types Of Peonies: Categories, Varieties, And Colors Of Peony Flowers

There are hundreds of varieties of peonies available to add to your garden. They make beautiful additions to any garden, and are perennials, which means they will return year after year!

Peony plants fall into one of three categories: Herbaceous Peonies, Tree Peonies, and Intersectional/Itoh Peonies (modern crosses between herbaceous and tree types). The shape of the flowers ranges from airy, delicate blooms to bodacious, frilly pom-pom puffs. Peony flower blooms are categorized into six types: Single, Japanese, Anemone, Semi-Double, Bombe, and Full Double. Many peonies have pink or white flowers, but there are also purple, red, orange, and even yellow peony varieties.

Let’s look at some example cultivar varieties of each of the three types of peony (herbaceous, tree, and intersectional/Itoh). This article also summarizes some popular peony plants by bloom color.

Types of peonies - categories, classification, colors, cultivar examples (varieties)
Types of peonies: categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

Herbaceous Peonies (Common Garden Peonies)

Herbaceous peonies are the most popular type of peonies. These compact plants grow masses of blooms each spring, before dying back to the ground in late autumn. New stems start to sprout in early spring to prepare for the next late spring bloom.

Here are some common varieties of herbaceous peony:

Looking for more? Here is a big list of 200+ peony varieties to choose from.

These types of peonies are generally quite low-maintenance. Some peony plants can hold up their flowers on their own, but other herbaceous peony plants may need to be staked in certain climates or contexts. The stems of herbaceous peonies are only meant to last one growing season (unlike tree peony stems, which are permanent). Roots can be divided in late fall or early spring to rejuvenate the plant and create new propagation plants.

Tree peony flower (yellow)
Types of peonies: categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

Tree Peonies (Woody Shrub Peonies)

Tree peonies are a type of peony which form a permanent woody stem. While the more-common herbaceous peonies have stems which die back to the ground every autumn, the tree peony is more like a hardy shrub. Woody stalks remain standing through winter and go on to flower again the next season.

Tree peonies are known for their large, fragrant flowers and delicate, fine foliage. The woody stalks allow for the tree peonies to produce huge flowers without the potential need for staking. The flowers on tree peonies also tend to last much longer than the flowers on herbaceous peonies.

Established tree peonies can grow to be larger than established herbaceous peonies (and therefore produce more flowers on a single plant). That said, tree peonies are much less tolerant of harsh environmental conditions than their herbaceous counterparts. Tree peonies also generally require more annual maintenance than herbaceous peonies (and typically benefit from expert pruning).

Itoh peony
Types of peonies: categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

Intersectional/Itoh Peonies (Cross Between Herbaceous & Tree-Type Peonies)

Intersectional peonies, also called Itoh peonies (after Japanese breeder Dr. Toichi Itoh), are modern peony types bred as crosses between common herbaceous peonies and traditional woody-type tree peonies. Intersectional peonies were bred to have large, fragrant flowers and fine foliage, while also being tolerant to cold and keeping a compact growth habit.

Intersectional (Itoh) peonies tend to bloom a few weeks later than herbaceous peonies. Adding some Itoh peonies to your garden can help extend peony season into early summer.

Pink peonies - blossoms of pink peony flowers together
Types of peonies: categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

Peony Colors

Peony flowers are available in many gorgeous colors! While none are exactly the same, here are some lists of different types of peonies grouped by color.

Pink Peonies

Pink is the classic color for garden peonies! Here are some popular pink types of peonies to plant in your garden:

White Peonies

White peonies are another classic shade. Here is a list of white peonies for the garden:

Red Peonies

Red peonies are bold and make a stunning statement in the landscape. Here are some red peony varieties to plant:

Purple itoh peony
Types of peonies: categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

Purple Peonies

Purple peonies are less common than their pink counterparts (but no less gorgeous!). Here are some purple peony varieties:

Yellow Peonies

Yellow is rare for peonies, and is most often seen in Itoh intersectional peonies or tree peonies. That said, there are more and more offerings each year. Here are some beautiful yellow peonies to check out:

Orange Peonies

Orange is another hard-to-find color in the world of peonies. Here are some orange types of peony flowers for a stunning statement in the 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.