19 White Peonies for Weeks of Extended Bloom

As I write this, the peonies outside are in full bloom. I’m not sure what it is about this year, but every peony in my neighbourhood is bigger and more floriferous than the years before! And seeing the blooms in all of their potential glory has given me a newfound appreciation for the plant as a whole.

A visit to your local greenhouse will likely show that there’s no shortage of pink peonies to choose from. Other colours, like white or the elusive yellow, tend to be a bit harder to find.

In this article, you’ll find my favourite white peonies for home landscapes and perennial gardens of all kinds.

Types of Peonies and Their Bloom Forms

Most peonies are herbaceous perennials. This means that they live for many years but die back to the ground each winter. The crown and root system overwinter beneath the soil’s surface and produce new shoots in early spring.

A healthy plant will live for many decades, getting slightly bigger with each growing season. With proper care and site management, however, peonies have been known to live for 100 years or more.

Note that I said most peonies are herbaceous perennials. What many people — even experienced gardeners — don’t realize is that there are several types of peonies.

Herbaceous

Herbaceous peonies are, well, herbaceous. These are what most gardeners picture when discussing peonies and their care. 

The majority of herbaceous peonies belong to the species Paeonia lactiflora, also known as the common garden peony. There are thousands of varieties and cultivars stemming from this one species.

In addition to P. lactiflora, there are 44 recognized species of herbaceous peony. These species are frequently hybridized to create unique crosses.

A lesser-known type of herbaceous peony is the woodland peony, a shade-loving shrub that blooms earlier than other varieties. There are two known species of woodland peony: P. obovata and P. japonica. Both are native to deciduous forests in Asia.

Tree

Tree peonies are the exception to the rule because they do not die back to the ground each winter. Instead, these peonies are hardy perennials that produce woody growth that survives the winter. Tree peonies are deciduous, though, which means they lose their leaves each year.

Most tree peonies stem from the species P. suffruticosa. However, as is the case with herbaceous varieties, other species are used to create unique hybrids.

Itoh/Intersectional

Itoh peonies are hybrids created by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. Some gardeners call these plants ‘intersectional peonies’. 

In terms of growth habits, Itoh peonies are most similar to their herbaceous parents. They die back to the ground each winter and reappear the following spring.

On the other hand, Itoh peonies have sturdier shoots that are able to support the large blossoms with little or no help from cages, stakes, or twine. (I find myself envying the neighbours’ tidy Itoh peonies as my herbaceous peonies flop over!) Another benefit of the Itoh peony is that it tends to bloom slightly longer than herbaceous varieties.

Bloom Forms

The American Peony Society recognizes 6 standardized bloom forms:

  • Single — Saucer-shaped flowers with a single row of petals surrounding a ring of pollen-bearing stamens. Single peonies most closely resemble the plant’s wild form. Also of note is that single (and semi-double) varieties tend to be the most beneficial to pollinators.
  • Semi-double — Flowers have several rows of petals that form a loose cup. I find that many semi-double peonies resemble large roses.
  • Double — Huge flowers with many layers of petals. Even the stamens have been replaced by petals coming from the centre of the bloom. 
  • Japanese — Flowers look a lot like single peonies but have morphed stamens that either lack pollen entirely or have encased the pollen inside. Japanese peonies gained popularity because they didn’t drop pollen when harvested.
  • Bomb — Similar to a double peony. So named because the flowers start small and explode or expand over several days.
  • Anemone — Flowers feature an inner ring of yellow ‘petals’ that are actually modified stamens. While some varieties have persistent anemone-style blooms, this form is also seen on Japanese peony side buds. 

When Do Peonies Bloom?

Like most plants, peonies bloom not with the calendar but with the temperature. This means that peonies growing in warmer climates will typically bloom earlier than those planted further north. It also means that natural variations in weather can easily shift the blooming season earlier or later than years prior.

Regardless of type, the peony season usually lasts for 6 weeks in April, May, and June. 

Individual flowers only last about a week to a week and a half, though some plants will put out additional, smaller buds after deadheading. Note that flowers last longest when the weather is cool.

You can prolong the peony season by planting several varieties that bloom at different times. Peonies are typically categorized as early-, midseason-, or late-blooming. There are also a few varieties that straddle these categories, or that bloom unusually early or late compared to others.

For the best display of peonies each spring, try to fill your garden with multiple varieties that bloom from early to late in the season (the latest types will bloom practically into summer). 

19 White Peonies for Your Spring Garden

With so many varieties to choose from, shopping for peonies can be plain overwhelming!

I much prefer to learn about available varieties in my own time so that I know exactly what I want when it comes time to buy. Doing things this way makes it a lot easier to see the subtle differences between various plants and choose one that 100% meets my needs.

Fall is the best time to purchase and plant peonies in your garden. So let’s jump right into my favourite white peonies and find one that works for you.

Charles’ White

Charles’ White

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Charles’ White’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Early/Midseason

Charles’ White is a great example of the ‘flower-in-a-flower’ double bloom form. While the outer petals are a snowy white, the inner petals tend to have a creamy or yellowish hue. Even without this distinction, however, the separation between the inner and outer blooms is clearly defined.

Garden peonies aren’t always known for their scent, but Charles’ White has a great fragrance. This is an early or midseason bloomer depending on your climate.

Duchess de Nemours

Duchess de Nemours

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchess de Nemours’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Early/Midseason

Duchess de Nemours is a classic white peony found in countless home landscapes (including my own). It was introduced over 150 years ago and is still widely available, so you know it has to be good!

This variety has relatively strong stems — it won’t flop over as dramatically as many other herbaceous peonies — but will also benefit from a bit of extra support. It has predominantly white petals with a soft hint of yellow at the centre of each flower. The blooms have a cupped shape overall and a sweet scent. 

Moon of Nippon

Moon of Nippon

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Moon of Nippon’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Japanese
  • Time: Midseason/Late

Us gardeners always seem to want what we don’t already have, and I’ve recently been more and more fascinated by Japanese-form peonies. Varieties like Moon of Nippon contrast beautifully with oversized double and semi-double bloomers.

Moon of Nippon features large, paper-white outer petals surrounding rich yellow-modified stamens. If you’re looking for a peony that doesn’t require staking or caging to stand upright, this is a great option.

Prairie Moon

Prairie Moon

‘Laura Magnuson’ x ’Archangel’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Semi-double
  • Time: Midseason

Technically speaking, Prairie Moon has a bright yellow centre surrounded by very pale yellow outer petals. But I’m happy to include it here anyway, especially since not all garden designs call for a pure white peony.

Prairie Moon does not develop side buds, which makes it ideal for cutting. In the landscape, it’s a solid midseason bloomer that works best when paired with peonies that flower both earlier and later in the year.

Bowl of Cream

Bowl of Cream

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Cream

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Midseason/Late

Bowl of Cream is one of the best white peonies for gardeners who want the biggest and the best. The variety’s name comes from the flowers’ close resemblance to big bowls of whipped cream. Its double blooms can easily exceed 8 inches across.

These plants also have sturdy stems that can more or less support the larger-than-life blooms. I still highly recommend staking or caging Bowl of Cream peonies to get the most out of their spring performance.

Cora Louise

Cora Louise

Paeonia x ‘Cora Louise’

  • Type: Itoh
  • Bloom Form: Semi-double
  • Time: Midseason/Late

Cora Louise is a charming white peony with a colourful twist. Each semi-double flower is tinged with a dark pink-purple that emanates from the centre.

This is an Itoh variety, so the stems are remarkably sturdy and rarely require additional support. Cora Louise is advertised as producing up to 50 blooms per plant in a single season. It also has a subtle, but lovely, fragrance.

Renkaku

Renkaku

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’

  • Type: Tree
  • Bloom Form: Semi-double
  • Time: Early

Renkaku is a tree peony with elegant white flowers that usually measure at least 8 inches across. This shrub can grow up to 5 feet tall and wide. On average, it blooms several weeks before herbaceous varieties.

In some light conditions, Renkaku’s white blossoms have a hint of blush pink. The petals are less structured than those of other varieties, giving them a linen- or tissue paper-like appearance. 

Jan van Leeuwen

Jan van Leeuwen

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Jan van Leeuwen’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Japanese
  • Time: Late

Named after a Dutch computer scientist, Jan van Leeuwen is another white Japanese peony worth adding to your perennial landscape. The flowers have buttery yellow centres that glow against the large, slightly cupped guard petals.

Jan van Leeuwen is a reliably sturdy peony, making it ideal for gardeners who hate the maintenance of staking and caging each spring. This late bloomer will extend your annual display by at least a week or two.

Marie Lemoine

Marie Lemoine

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Marie Lemoine’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Late

Marie Lemoine has grown in gardens around the world for over 150 years. Its large, double blossoms emerge off-white or yellow and brighten to pure white as they fully open. You may also notice pink or red margins along some of the petals.

This peony’s flowers have an incredibly full, rounded form. The shrub itself has a dwarf habit (typically growing less than 3 feet tall) and may be planted in front of taller varieties for a layered effect. 

Festiva Maxima

Festiva Maxima

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Festiva Maxima’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Early/Midseason

Festiva Maxima is another time-tested white peony that was first developed in the mid-1800s. It stands out from others on this list thanks to the red ‘flakes’ scattered across the innermost petals. The buds may also be streaked with red or pink.

This variety is both tall and vigorous. It has moderately strong stems that can be left to gracefully droop under the weight of the flowers or caged for an upright form. Blossoms are large and rose-shaped.

Honey Gold

Honey Gold

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Honey Gold’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Japanese/Bomb
  • Time: Midseason

Honey Gold appears to have a traditional Japanese bloom form. After a couple of days, however, it quickly explodes into a fully double ‘bomb’. 

At first, the flowers boast soft yellow centres framed by creamy white guard petals. Additional white petals then emerge from the centre, creating the distinctive bomb form coveted by many peony growers.

Minnie Shaylor

Minnie Shaylor

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Minnie Shaylor’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Semi-double
  • Time: Midseason

The appeal of Minnie Shaylor is, in my opinion, all in the floral details. But these details earned it the Award of Landscape Merit and the title of ‘Best in Show’, both given by the American Peony Society.

You can easily ID Minnie Shaylor by its crepe-like, somewhat serrated petals that range from very pale pink to snow white. The centre of each bloom contains prominent yellow stamens and pink stigmas. This peony has a subtle but attractive scent.

White Innocence

White Innocence

Paeonia x ‘White Innocence’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Single
  • Time: Midseason

White Innocence is a unique hybrid herbaceous peony with very large single petals and yellow-green stamens that curl inward on themselves. The result is a flowering form almost reminiscent of a hibiscus. It was created by crossing a common garden peony with a Himalayan peony (Paeonia emodi).

Another interesting feature of this variety is the taller-than-average height. White Innocence routinely grows over 4 feet tall and will tower over other peonies in the landscape.

Madame de Verneville

Madame de Verneville

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Madame de Verneville’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Bomb
  • Time: Early

Madame de Verneville is a French heirloom peony often described as having a rose-like fragrance and overall appearance. The flowers are relatively cupped and compact despite their double-bomb bloom form.

Outer guard petals are pure white and fade to blush pink toward the centre. You’ll often see red flecks or margins along the innermost petals. Some specimens have a yellow or cream cast that fades with time.

Ice Age

Ice Age

Paeonia delavayi x Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Ice Age’

  • Type: Tree
  • Bloom Form: Double
  • Time: Early

Ice Age first appeared as a white mutation of the existing hybrid tree peony ‘Age of Gold’ in 1990. It was then registered and given its own official name in 1996.

The loosely double flowers have white petals that appear to be stained with magenta watercolour paint toward the centre. Ice Age also features prominent yellow stamens and a notable fragrance when in bloom.

Phoenix White

Phoenix White

Paeonia ostii ‘Feng Dan Bai’

  • Type: Tree
  • Bloom Form: Single
  • Time: Early

According to Missouri Botanical Garden, this is a Chinese tree peony frequently sold under the name Phoenix White in the US, UK, and elsewhere abroad. The species is sometimes called Osti’s tree peony. 

It has a very open, saucer-shaped form with vibrant stamens and stigmas in the centre. As a tree peony, this variety blooms very early in the season. Flowering can last for up to 2 weeks in cool weather.

Claire de Lune

Claire de Lune

Paeonia ‘Mons. Jules Elie’ x ‘Mlokosewitschi’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Single
  • Time: Early

Claire de Lune is usually one of the first herbaceous peonies to bloom in the spring. This is a unique, high-quality flower worth investing in if you want to extend the season an extra week or so.

Some growers describe Claire de Lune as a pale, buttery yellow. In most scenarios, however, the petals are just as likely to pull as pure white. The single petals are nearly overpowered by the large cluster of yellow stamens in the middle of every flower.

Miss America

Miss America

Paeonia x ‘Miss America’

  • Type: Herbaceous
  • Bloom Form: Semi-double
  • Time: Early/Midseason

Miss America is one of the most highly praised of all white peony varieties. It is a recipient of the American Peony Society’s Award of Garden Merit and is readily available from a number of greenhouses and nurseries.

While technically possessing a semi-double bloom form, Miss America’s dense petals (surrounding a golden-yellow cluster of stamens) give it an extremely full appearance. I’m fond of the softer, more romantic aesthetic this peony has in comparison to some of the other varieties recommended on this list.

Japanese Woodland Peony

Japanese Woodland Peony

Paeonia japonica

  • Type: Woodland
  • Bloom Form: Single
  • Time: Early

Woodland peonies are nowhere near as commonplace as their herbaceous, Itoh, and tree counterparts. However, the Japanese Woodland Peony is a white-flowered early bloomer that I hope to see in more and more landscapes going forward.

This species is more shade-tolerant than other cultivated peonies. It prefers spring sun and summer shade, so naturalizes well beneath deciduous trees. Given the right growing environment, it will slowly spread to create loose colonies that bloom year after year.

Peony Plant Care

Site Selection

In the US, most peonies will thrive in zones 3 through 8. Gardeners living on the upper or lower ends of this region, however, should purposely choose varieties with improved heat or cold tolerance for the best results. Some varieties are only rated for zones 4 to 7.

Peonies aren’t too picky about soil conditions but much prefer loose, well-draining soil when available. Plan to keep the area around your peony (approximately 3 square feet) clear of other plant matter so that the crown has room to spread and access soil resources.

Common peonies typically need at least 6 hours of sun per day. You can get away with only 4 hours of sun per day if you’re willing to settle for fewer flowers.

Pruning

Herbaceous and Itoh Peonies

These types of peonies do not require any routine pruning. However, I do like to deadhead spent blooms as needed. Cut fading flowers back to the next set of healthy leaves. Be sure to leave the foliage intact for the summer so the plant can store energy for next year.

Many gardeners, including myself, cut the shoots to the ground at the end of the growing season. This creates a tidier landscape going into winter and also paves the way for new growth to emerge the following spring.

Tree Peonies

Annual pruning will help keep your tree peony healthy and looking its best. This should occur in late winter or early spring — don’t be surprised if you’re pruning when there is still some snow on the ground!

To know when to prune your tree peony, watch for the buds along the stems to start swelling. You can then easily identify sections of dead wood and remove branches as necessary.

When pruning, remove dead wood down to the first healthy bud. Cut as close to the bud as possible without damaging it.

Pests and Diseases

Few pests cause serious damage to peonies. (And, no, those ants on your peony are not pests!)

The most common disease among peonies is powdery mildew. In my own garden, it’s a given that the leaves will turn dusty white later in the year. The good news is that powdery mildew is only cosmetic if the plant is otherwise healthy.

Various other bacterial and fungal infections may infect peonies, especially in damp, warm weather. Always use good sanitary practices when pruning, deadheading, or taking flowers for bouquets to prevent the spread of disease.

If you enjoyed this article, here’s a link to 11 Stunning Varieties of Yellow Perennial Flowers that you may also enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are there ants on my peonies?

Contrary to popular belief, peonies do not need ants to bloom. But those ants are still an important part of a happy, healthy peony shrub. Ants feed on nectar produced by the peonies. In turn, the ants protect the plants from small bugs like aphids and thrips. 

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.