Peony obovata

Peony obovata
Peony obovata

If you are looking for a peony with a ‘little bit extra’, then Peony obovata could be the one. This is a woodland species form Japan.

Sometimes called the Japanese forest peony, Peony obovata, or to be correct Paeonia obovata is a species that likes a little shade. Originally found in the forest margins from Japan through to China and Siberia.

It does differ form other peony varieties, Firstly the foliage, new growth is a lovely red color before it turns to a lush green. The foliage forms anise mound, to around 1m by 1m, and looks good until autumn.

Secondly the delicate cup shaped flowers, either pink, or in our case white as we are growing Peony obovata alba. They are not as big and showy as the cultivars we commonly see, however they are fragrant and are held upright on short stems above the foliage.

And finally the seed pods, whatever you do, try not to be tempted to deadhead these wonderful plants. The seed pods will ripen and open to put on a display that rivals the delicate flowers. Blood red with deep purple to black seeds in an open star shape. Extra interest in autumn.

Peony obovata care

Like all peonies, a well drained humus rich soil is required. Peony obovata will not cope with wet soils over winter.

You will find that the rhizomes of Peony obovata, pictured right, will need to be planted with the tips just below the surface. Look for plants with a good sized rhizome and good growing tips.

Some added lime will certainly help with flowering, and a little shade, especially afternoon shade, will keep this wonderful plant growing well. In deep shade flowering will be restricted.

Dig in well rotted compost before planting. Consider planting with hostas, ferns, corydalis and dicentra.

Propagation of Peony obovata

  • Usually from seed sown when fresh.
  • Also possible by division.

The seed pods are perhaps just as attractive as the flowers, red star shaped when open dotted with purple tom black seeds.

Summary Details

  • Botanical Name – Peony obovata
  • Common Names – Japanese ForestPeony, Woodland peony  
  • Family – Paeoniaceae
  • Origins – Japan, Korea, China, Siberia and nearby Eastern Asia
  • USDA Zones – 5 to 8
  • Height – 1.00 to 2.00 feet (30 – 70cm)
  • Spread – 1.00 to 2.00 feet
  • Growth Rate – Slow to Medium 
  • Bloom Time – Spring 
  • Flowers –  White, rose, red to purple
  • Flower fragrance – Light
  • Position – Dappled shade to Part shade
  • Soil – Humus rich, moist with good drainage.
  • The sub species Paeonia obovata subsp. willmottiae is endemic to China.

More Peony Varieties