Types of peonies: Categories, varieties, and colors of peony flowers

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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)

Herbaceous peonies (common garden peonies)

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

Here are some common varieties of herbaceous peonies:

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

Herbaceous 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)

Tree peonies (woody shrub peonies)

Tree peonies are a type of peony that form a permanent woody stem. While the more-common herbaceous peonies have stems that 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

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

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:

  • Sarah Bernhardt Peony (light pink)
  • Coral Charm Peony (pink)
  • Bowl of Beauty Peony (pink)
  • Shirley Temple Peony (soft pink)
  • Dr. Alex Fleming (pink)
  • Catharina Fontijn Peony (pink)
  • Coral Sunset Peony (orange-pink)
  • Sorbet Peony (light pink-bright pink)
  • Dinner Plate Pink Peony (pink)
  • Bella Donna Peony (pink)
  • Julia Rose Itoh Peony (pink)
  • Moon River Peony (soft white pink)
  • Raspberry Sundae Peony (light pink and yellow)
  • Pink Hawaiian Coral Peony (pink-yellow)
  • Honey Gold Peony (white-yellow-pink)
  • Felix Crousse Peony (bright pink-purple)
  • Peter Brand Peony (bright pink-purple-red)

White peonies

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

  • Duchesse de Nemours Peony (white)
  • Moon Over Barrington Peony (white)
  • Class Act Peony (cream-white)
  • Renkaku Tree Peony (white)
  • Festiva Maxima Peony (white with red flecks)
  • Cora Louise Itoh Peony (white)
  • Marie Lemoine Peony (cream-white)
  • Honey Gold Peony (white-yellow-pink)
  • Moon River Peony (soft white pink)
  • Fairy’s Petticoat Peony (white-pink-cream)
  • Gardenia Peony (rose-white)
  • Jan van Leeuwen Peony (white-yellow)
  • Avalanche Peony (white-yellow-pink)
  • Blush Queen Peony (white-pink)
  • Bowl Of Cream Peony (cream)
  • Green Halo Peony (white-green)
  • Top Brass Peony (white-yellow)

Red peonies

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

  • Karl Rosenfield Peony (red)
  • Red Charm Peony (red)
  • Fernleaf Peony (red)
  • Cherry Hill Peony (red-purple)
  • Buckeye Belle Peony (deep red)
  • Diana Parks Peony (red)
  • Peter Brand Peony (bright pink-purple-red)
  • Command Performance Peony (red)
  • Delaware Chief Peony (red)
  • Eliza Lundy Peony (red)
  • Henry Bockstoce Peony (red)
Purple itoh peony

Purple peonies

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

  • Black Beauty Peony (purple)
  • Old Faithful Peony (purple)
  • Shimadaijin Tree Peony (purple)
  • Felix Crousse Peony (bright pink-purple)
  • Cherry Hill Peony (red-purple)
  • Peter Brand Peony (bright pink-purple-red)
  • Koukamon Peony Tree (purple)

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:

  • Goldilocks Peony (yellow)
  • Lemon Chiffon Peony (yellow-orange)
  • Marie Lemoine Peony (cream)
  • Bartzella Itoh Peony (yellow)
  • High Noon Tree Peony (yellow)
  • Raspberry Sundae Peony (light pink and yellow)
  • Pink Hawaiian Coral Peony (pink-yellow)
  • Garden Treasure Itoh Peony (yellow)
  • Honey Gold Peony (white-yellow-pink)
  • Jan van Leeuwen Peony (white-yellow)
  • Avalanche Peony (white-yellow-pink)
  • Lollipop Itoh Peony (yellow-red-purple)
  • Bowl Of Cream Peony (cream)
  • Top Brass Peony (white-yellow)
  • Border Charm Peony (cream-orange)
  • Prairie Charm Itoh Peony (yellow)

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:

  • Kopper Kettle Itoh Peony (soft orange)
  • Coral Sunset Peony (orange-pink)
  • Coral Charm Peony (pink-orange)
  • Julia Rose Itoh Peony (pink-orange-yellow)
  • Lemon Chiffon Peony (yellow-orange)
  • Border Charm Peony (cream-orange)
  • Living Coral Peony (pink-orange)
Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

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