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

By Morgan Noll
Updated February 21, 2020

Once spring rolls around, 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 perennial and one of the most popular flowers for adding color to garden beds across the country. In addition to beautiful blooms, there's one variety of peony that combines incredible flower power with fine-textured foliage for a truly stunning combination.

Although it's a less common peony species, the fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) is visually striking with red blooms that can reach up to three inches across. The flowers have very short stems that look like they sit directly on feathery foliage. And even though the plants can be found growing wild in areas of Eastern Europe, many garden centers and online retailers in the U.S. are starting to carry this underused peony cultivar.

With fewer flowers than more common peony varieties, fernleaf peony stays upright more successfully, and usually doesn't need staking. As any peony-lover knows, without the proper support, many peonies tend to droop to the ground after blooming. The fernleaf peony is sometimes called the Mother's Day peony for its early spring bloom time. However, the flowers are short-lived, usually only lasting about 7 to 10 days so enjoy the bold blooms while they last.

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The bright green foliage is dense but feathery, unlike other kinds of peonies that have wider, broader leaves. Even one of these plants in your garden is sure to turn heads, but fernleaf peonies also work well in groups and can make gorgeous edging plants

Even better than being an attractive addition to your landscape, these plants are also super low maintenance. The best time to plant is in the fall, so you can enjoy their blooms the following spring. Like other 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 feathery foliage in your landscape throughout the summer. As a perennial plant, they'll live for many years without needing to be dug up and overwintered indoors.

Get out of your gardening rut and try planting something new! Fernleaf peonies will quickly win you over and become one of your favorites in the garden. And no doubt, the guests at your backyard barbecue will be asking you about that amazing plant with red flowers.


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