Patio Peonies: A New Look at an Old Favorite


Patio peony ‘Oslo’: the perfect choice for a deck or patio. Photo:

Most of us know peonies (Paeonia spp.) as large perennials or even larger shrubs, something more for back of the flower border. The idea of growing peonies in a pot is rather radical. Yet there is an entire series of peonies specially designed for growing in containers: Patio Peonies™. 

Developed by the Dutch specialist nursery, Green Works, the Patio series includes 8 varieties (singles, semi-doubles and doubles) of diminutive herbaceous peonies (P. lactiflora), just what you’d need for a container. Of course, they can also be planted in the garden just like any other peony, it’s just that you’d be more likely to want to plant them towards the front of the garden, or even in a rock garden, rather than the back.

Container peonies have the advantage of being moveable. Move the pots to a starring role on your deck or patio when the plants are in full bloom, then use their attractive dark green foliage to set off other blooming containers as the summer progresses. 

Family Portrait

You’ll discover patio peonies to be sturdy, upright plants with strong stems: no flopping here! The green leaves are healthy and attractive. They bloom in late spring or early spring, at the same time as border peonies, and are deer and rabbit resistant. The flowers are surprisingly large and—yes!—they still make great cut flowers.

Here are short descriptions of the 8 cultivars:

‘Athens’—semi-double deep pink. Fragrant. 75-80 cm × 80-90 cm (30–31 in × 31–35 in).

‘Dublin’—single large white flower with a deep yellow heart. 55-60 cm × 50-60 cm (22–24 in × 20–24 in).

‘Kiev’ – deep pink single with cream-colored stamens. 55–60 cm × 80–90 cm in (22–24 in × 31–35 in).

‘London’—fully double raspberry-pink blooms with frilly petals 15 cm in diameter. 55–60 cm × 50–60 cm. (22–24 in × 20–24 in).

‘Madrid’—white anemone type with a fluffy buttercream center. Highly scented. 70–80 cm × 60–70 cm. (28–31 in × 24–28 in).

‘Moscow’—semi-double red with dense yellow stamens. 70–80 cm × 60–70 cm (28–31 in × 24–28 in).

‘Oslo’—large cup-shaped cranberry pink single with yellow stamens. The shortest of the series: 45–55 cm × 50–60 cm. (18–22 in × 20–24 in).

‘Rome’—pink double with yellow stamens peeking through the center. 70–80 cm × 60–70 cm (28–31 in × 24–28 in).

Growing Patio Peonies

You’ll be able to buy Patio peonies, like ‘Rome’, already in bloom in late spring. Photo:

If you buy your patio peonies in a local garden center, they’ll likely already be growing in a simple culture pot at the time of purchase. If so, carefully unpot them and slip the intact rootball into a larger, more ornamental (and weatherproof) container after purchase. You’ll want a pot at least 45 cm (1 ½ ft) in height and diameter. Use a rich, well-drained potting soil such as one specifically sold for container gardening to fill in all around the rootball. Then water well.

Plant divisions with the eyes pointing upwards. Photo: Thompson & Morgan

If you buy bare-root divisions (less expensive and offered by some mail-order services), that’s not a problem. Again, you’ll need a fairly large pot, with the same top-quality soil. No drainage layer is required or recommended: just fill the pot with soil to about 15 cm (6 inches) from the rim, tamp down solidly, then set the division in the center and add more soil, making sure the eyes (buds) are covered with no more than 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) of growing mix. After planting, water well.

Full sun gives the best blooms, although peonies will tolerate part shade. 

Keep the soil at least slightly moist at all times, watering thoroughly just before it dries out completely. That will mean more watering then for plants growing in the garden. Fertilize annually in the spring using the slow-release product of your choice. 

Deadhead after bloom if you don’t want seeds to form You can also cut foliage back in the winter.

A leaf wrap may be necessary over the winter in cold climates. Photo: Marie Iannotti, The Spruce

Peonies are very hardy (USDA zones 2–9), but even so, don’t like to freeze solid, so if you live in a cold climate, in late fall move the pots to a protected spot: up against the house or inside a garage or potting shed. Or bury the pots in a pile of dead leaves or cover them in mulch for the winter.

It’s really quite easy!

Where to Find Patio Peonies

Patio peonies seem to have come into their own this year. You’ll see them featured in several online catalogs and, at peony season, expect to see them in your local garden center as well. 

Patio peonies: a whole new way of looking at peonies!