Fernleaf Peonies Add Unexpected Color and Texture to Your Garden

Upgrade your garden with this unique perennial that will add statement flowers as well as soft texture.

In spring, peonies are one of the most gorgeous plants you'll find bursting into bloom. Known for their large, delicate-looking flowers, peonies have long been a favorite garden perennial and a popular flower for weddings. In addition to beautiful blooms, there's one peony species that combines incredible flower power with fine-textured, feathery leaves for a truly stunning combination. The fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) features petal-packed red blooms that can reach up to three inches across. The flowers have very short stems so they look like they sit directly on the foliage. Though the plants can be found growing wild in areas of Eastern Europe, they are underused in landscapes and definitely deserve a place in your garden.

red fern leaf peony flowers
Clint Farlinger

How to Grow Fernleaf Peonies

Hardy in Zones 3-8, fernleaf peony will do best in part shade to full sun. The best time to plant your fernleaf peony is in the fall. It's not picky about soil type, as long as it's well-drained. If you have sandy or clay soil, it helps to mix in plenty of compost to the planting site. It may take a couple of years for your new plant to bloom, but it be worth the wait when its gorgeous crimson petals finally unfurl.

Buy It: Fernleaf Peony ($60, Breck's)

The fernleaf peony is sometimes called the Mother's Day peony for its early spring bloom time. Its flowers usually last for about 7 to 10 days. With shorter stems than more common peony varieties, fernleaf peony stays upright more successfully, and usually doesn't need staking. When it's done blooming, remove the spent flowers to maintain and enjoy the feathery foliage in your landscape throughout the summer.

After the foliage dies back in the fall, cut your fernleaf peony back to the ground to make way for fresh growth in spring. A little balanced fertilizer or additional compost at this time will give your plant a boost. Avoid dividing or transplanting this peony because it does not like to be disturbed. Pests and diseases such as powdery mildew aren't usually a problem for this plant, and deer and rabbits tend to leave it alone, too.

One red bloom with yellow stamen in center on green foliage that looks like asparagus fern, fernleaf peony
Diyana Dimitrova

Because they are somewhat rare, fernleaf peonies can be pricey, but as a perennial plant, they will live for many years in your garden. Even one of these plants in your garden is sure to turn heads, but fernleaf peonies look even more stunning in small groups. They also can make gorgeous edging plants because they stay compact, growing about two feet tall. If you're looking to plant something new, fernleaf peony will certainly become one of your favorites in the garden.

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