The name peony derives from paeon, the Greek doctor of gods, because of the plant’s alleged healing powers.
Varieties include the herbaceous peony and the Chinese peony.
Indiana has chosen no fewer than four plants as the state flower in its history, including the Carnation, the Tulip Tree Flower and the Zinnia. Perhaps it’s a good thing that the state’s most recent choice, the Peony, has staying power: the beautiful plant has been growing in its native China as well as in Japan and Siberia for more than 2,500 years!
Known for its magnificent, showy flowers, colorful foliage and the ability to bloom year after year, the Peony has been an American favorite since its arrival from Europe in the 1800s. In Indiana, descendants of some of the state’s earliest Peonies still grow today.
A perennial, the Peony bush reaches about 18 inches tall, with some plants growing to be several feet high. Peonies are relatively easy to care for, and their success derives from the plant’s ability to withstand seasonal temperatures and cold winters. In fact, the Peony is such a hardy plant that it will faithfully bloom for as long as 50 years if undisturbed.
Peonies thrive in Indiana’s climate, producing flowers from Fort Wayne to the capital city of Indianapolis. Spectacular, round blooms open up in May in a delightful assortment of colors ranging from scarlet red and orange to lavender, magenta, gold and white. In addition to its beautiful color, the Indiana state flower gives off a strong, pleasant fragrance, especially when grown in abundance.
When state lawmakers picked the Peony as the Indiana state flower, they failed to pick a specific color, giving Hoosiers plenty of Peonies to call their own. One of the most common is the Herbaceous Peony, which has single, double, and anemone forms.
Single Peony plants produce slender flowers with five petals, while the blooms of double Peonies are much more substantial and round. Anemone types have broad leaves and pincushion-shaped blooms. The double form is a favorite cut flower, traditionally appearing in arrangements that adorn gravesites and markers on Memorial Day.
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