This showy perennial is exactly the kind of boldness your spring garden needs. The bold crimson red flowers and fern-like foliage are an unexpected-yet-striking pairing. 

By Morgan Noll
May 22, 2019

Spring has arrived and that means its time for peonies, one of the most popular flowers, to bloom. Known for their large, delicate flowers and intense fragrance, peonies have long been a favorite perennial that add prolific blooms and a strong fragrance to flower gardens. More and more gardeners are delving into the woodland gardening world, with ferns as one of the most popular plants of the year. Lucky for us, there is a variety of peonies that brings together the heirloom bloom and fern-like texture.

Although it's a less common peony variety, the fernleaf peony is visually striking with its red blooms and very short stems that appear to sit directly on feathery foliage. At a glimpse, the 2-1/2-inch to 3-inch flowers almost resemble an old-fashioned shaving brush. And even though the plants can be found growing wild in areas of Eastern Europe, many garden centers and online retailers are starting to carry this underused peony cultivar.

Buy it: Peony tenuifolia 'Plena' Bareroot, $89.00, White Flower Farm

With fewer flowers than more common peony varieties, the Paeonia tenuifolia stays upright more successfully, so there’s less risk of the plant drooping sadly toward the ground. As any peony-lover knows, without the proper support, peonies will make their descent almost immediately after blooming.

The fernleaf is sometimes called the Mother's Day peony for it's early spring bloom time. However, the flowers are rather ephemeral—lasting about 7 to 10 days—so enjoy the bold blooms while they last.

The bright green foliage is dense yet feathery. And since the plant is closer to the ground than other peony varieties, it can appear more like a bush or shrub. Just one of these plants in your garden is sure to turn heads, but fernleaf peonies also work well in groups and can make for great edging plants

Even better than the attractive addition to your landscape is the low maintenance it requires. Like other peony varieties, the fernleaf peony is hardy in Zones 3–8 and is happy in part shade to full sun. When it's done blooming, you can remove the spent flowers to maintain and enjoy the remaining bush in your landscape throughout the summer. As a perennial plant, they will live for many years without being dug up and overwintered indoors.

Get out of a gardening rut and try something new in the garden. Fernleaf peonies will be your next favorite plant, with eye-catching blooms and feathery, fern-like foliage. They're a low maintenance addition to your landscape that will have guests asking about that amazing shrub with red flowers.

Buy it: Fernleaf Peony Bareroot, $49.99, Breck's

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