Plant of the Week: Itoh Peony

By: Julie McIntyre, Special to the Gazette
May 3, 2014
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Common name: Itoh peony

Scientific name: Paeonia (Itoh)

Height: 2-3 feet

Width: 3 feet

Blooms: Spring

Where to plant: Full sun

Water requirement: Average, well draining

Preparing the soil: Compost- enriched soil

Hardy: Zone 4 (up to 7,500 ft)

Looking for something flashy that no one else has in their garden? Love the beauty, fragrance and durability of peonies? Then you might want to try an Itoh or intersectional peony, a relatively new cross between the traditional herbaceous peony (one that dies back to the ground every winter) and a tree peony (woody shrubs that do not die back). The result is a stunning, highly sought-after peony offering a new range of flower colors such as yellow, orange, red and everything in between. Flowers are large, up to 5-6 inches across, and plants bloom for three to four weeks as buds keep opening, with up to 50 flowers per plant. Itohs are sturdy, disease-resistant peonies with very strong stems and require no staking like traditional herbaceous peonies. After flowering, these are dense, lacy-leaved rounded plants. Named after Japanese plant breeder Dr. Tiochi Itoh, who, after more than 20,000 attempts, finally achieved this cross. As with all peonies, be sure to plant level with soil surface; plants will not bloom if planted too deep. And to address the myth that ants are required for the flowers to open, this is simply not true. Ants are attracted to the nectar produced on the outside of the buds and will not harm the plant, cause problems or make the buds open.

Julie McIntyre, Summerland Gardens

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