The Q&A Archives: Peony?

Question: Hi, I live near Denver, CO. This spring, something started growing in my landscaping that was NOT there last year & it's in an area that I know I did not plant anything. I have a picture of it & was wondering if I could email it to you so it can be identified? I suspect it's a peony b/c it looks like one when I compare it to pictures on the internet but I'm not sure...but if it is, how did it get there? It wasn't there last yr but we've only lived here for 2 years...thanks!

Answer: Sounds like it could be a wild peony (Paeonia californica or Paeonia mascula). Wild Peony commonly blooms from January to April. Its flowers have petals the color of red-wine, but there is another species that flowers in white. The flowers are about an inch and a half long, and have a heavy-looking, downward-cupped shape. The peony relies on winter rains to spring back from its dormant state that it adopts in summer. Often a clump of hollow stems emerges from the roots but it also may grow more individually. Its flowers grow on singular stalks and have 5 or 6 petals, and as they mature develop prominent seed pods at their center. The flowers never open completely, maintaining a cupped shape.

The seeds from a wild peony were probably dropped by birds or carried by the wind into your garden. You can cultivate the plant if you like it, or you can treat it as a weed. I think I'd grow it, just because it's a volunteer and because it's unusual.

Best wishes with your garden!

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