Fernleaf Peony is a unique herbaceous perennial. This exciting shrub has very finely cut bright green fern-like feathery foliage and the flowers are 3- to-3.5-inch burgundy, crimson, or dark red petals with contrasting yellow stamen. When I saw a photo of one of these plants on Facebook, I had to learn more about it. The expensive plant is rare and hard to find and the websites that sell it were sold out. It is not a peony found in a garden center.
The botanical name is Paeonia tenuifolia and it is also called Mother’s Day Peony because it blooms around that time of year. It is native to southeastern Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus region. It is one of the earliest peonies to bloom, usually from late spring to early summer. The plant blooms for around 7-10 days. The stems on this peony are shorter than others so the flowers stay upright and do not need staking.
The plant will grow 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Remember to remove the spent flowers as they fade. Once the shrub has stopped flowering the pretty foliage will remain attractive from summer to fall. After frost appears, the plant will die and can be cut to the ground.
Planting Fernleaf Peony
The plant is adaptable in the garden and requires little maintenance. Plant the bare roots in the fall, at least 6 weeks before the ground freezes. The plant needs a period of chill or a cold winter or it will not bloom well.
The Peony grows best in a full sun location but will tolerate some afternoon shade. This location also needs to be sheltered. Plant it in rich, fertile, well-draining soil in a permanent location as they do not like to be moved.
Try grouping several plants in a flower bed, a border, or in a cottage garden. It can also be used as an informal hedge. If you plant several of these plants do not crow them as it can lead to disease. Trying planting them 3 to 4 feet apart.
Caring For Fernleaf Peony
As previously mentioned, the plant is low maintenance. Make sure if you live in a dry or hot temperature, water the plant regularly. The plant does need fertilizing but if you want to use a little balanced fertilizer or compost after you cut the plant down in the fall it will give the plant a boost.
In the spring to keep the soil moist try adding a layer of mulch from 2 to 4 inches deep and make sure you don’t pile it directly against the plant stems. Continue to use the mulch in the winter and then remove it in the spring.
Pest and diseases are usually not a problem for this plant. The plant is also deer and rabbit resistant but extremely attractive to butterflies. The plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
This plant is very hardy, long-lasting, and will continue to grow in the same location if left undisturbed.