Peony News

Red peonies in a garden can command our attention from a distance. Planted in partial shade, the darkness of the deep red varieties intensifies in contrast to those grown in full sun. When the peony buds are developing and opening under cloudy skies, you will see darker pigmentation than when they develop and bloom in hot sun. That is why the vibrancy and hue of some peonies may vary slightly from one season to the next.

If you grow a dark red peony near a tree where it gets both sun and shade, you may be amazed at the deeper, richer color of the flowers. The trick is to have a nice balance of sun and shade – too much shade and the amount of flowers per plant will likely diminish. You can also see the stronger color intensity on a peony if you cut a bud when it is marshmallow soft and put it in the refrigerator for a few days. When you re-cut the stem and put it in a vase with water, it will open over the next day or two. You will see more vibrancy in the color than in one that opens in the garden, as it did not fade from the sun as it opened.

We grow some brilliant reds, like Christmas Velvet, Henry Bockstoce, Many Happy Returns and Command Performance. They are stunning red peonies and I love them all.  I love the darker red peonies, too. Some appear black red under the right conditions; others have a velvety allure to them. They come in single, double and Japanese style blossoms; some are accentuated with golden stamens peaking through their petals.

Bright red peonies make me happy and dark red peonies soothe my soul. Black Swan, Bob, Buckeye Belle, Charm, Chief Black Hawk, Old Faithful, Red Charm, Rubra Plena and Topeka Garnet are some of the deep reds that just shout out for attention.

  Black Swan



  Buckeye Belle


 Chief Black Hawk

  Old Faithful

  Red Charm

  Rubra Plena

  Topeka Garnet

Black Swan, Bob, Buckeye Belle, Charm, Chief Black Hawk, Illini Warrior, Old Faithful, Red Charm, Rubra Plena are some of the deep reds that just shout out for attention. When I see these dark beauties, I marvel at them each day that I can. Their red hues are often described as crimson, garnet, mahogany, sangria, scarlet or wine – there are so many shades that it is sometimes hard to define the exact color. 

Look for a few of these dark red peonies on display at our farm through June 15. They’ll be alongside the whites, pinks, yellows and bi-colored peonies. 

We also offer a selection of bare root peonies for fall planting in our online peony catalog.

Peony varieties come in a multitude of colors in varying shades of coral, green, maroon, orange, pink, red, salmon, white and yellow. There are blended colors, bi-colors and tri-colors. Many peonies have a distinct hue – slightly different from the all the others. If you put 20 different red peonies in vases and compared the colors, you would likely be looking at 20 different shades of red.

When it comes to red peonies, the spectrum of color ranges from bright red, true red, orange-red and a magnitude of other hues. Color definitions are really defined by the ‘eye of the beholder’. Dark red peonies might be described as mahogany, wine or sangria. Some of them are so dark, that I refer to them as black-reds, such as ‘Bob’, ‘Black Swan’ and the Itoh intersectional peony ‘Chief Black Hawk’. While not quite as dark, ‘Old Faithful’ is certainly a stunning deep red peony.

Cloud cover during bloom season will intensify the color of many peony petals; just as lots of sun can soften the hue from year to year. I don’t detect color variation on ‘Chief Black Hawk' or ‘Old Faithful’ from season to season. ‘Bob’, while always mesmerizing, can be darker during cool, cloudy springs.

Here of some of the rich, dark red peonies. How do you describe them?

  Two photos of 'Bob' - same plant!

'Bob’ (R.W.Tischler)  Deep, dark mahogany-red with golden-yellow stamens. Young plants often produce Japanese style peony flowers. Mature plants can produce both Japanese style and full doubles, sometimes ‘bomb’ style flowers. You can have three distinct flower styles on one plant! Grows to 32" tall. 

  ‘Black Swan’ (A.L. Murawska) Deep maroon black, early mid-season. 28” tall. Formerly called A.L. Murawska.  (I have only grown this peony for a few years – and it has captivated me, as I anticipated.)

  ‘Chief Black Hawk’ (Anderson-Kornder) Dark black-red Itoh intersectional peony with a beautiful sheen to the petals. 34” tall. Mid-season. One of the darkest intersectional peonies.

  ‘Old Faithful’ (Glasscock-Falk) Magnificent dark red with petals of heavy substance.  Strong stems. Dark green foliage. Late season. 36” – 38” tall. Such an outstanding peony, hybridizers seek to replicate the stem strength and flower form of this plant. (American Peony Society Gold Medal peony).


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