Peony, a perennial plant cultivated for its showy, fragrant flowers. The many garden varieties of peony are descended from a few wild species of Asia and southern Europe. Most varieties have large, white or red flowers that are borne on separate stalks in the spring or early summer. The leaves usually are lobed, and the roots tuber-like. The peony is hardy in temperate climates and resists most plant diseases and pests. It thrives in rich, well-drained soil and full sunlight. The peony is named for Paeon, a Greek god of healingapparently because the plant contains an alkaloid substance that hastens childbirth.

Chinese Peony.Chinese Peony. This species was introduced into Europe and America from China in the 1800's.

The Chinese peony, 2 to 3 ½ feet (60 cm to 1 m) tall, is the most common species. It may be single-flowered, with one or two rows of petals and true pollen-bearing stamens; or double-flowered, with modified stamens in the form of many central petals. So-called Japanese peonies are intermediate between single- and double-flowered forms. The tree peony is a many-branched species, 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) tall, with flowers that may be 12 inches (30 cm) across.

Tree peoniesTree peonies have woody stems and large white or rose flowers.

The peony belongs to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. The Chinese peony is Paeonia lactiflora; tree, P. suffruticosa, or P. moutan.