Can You Plant Peonies and Hydrangeas Together?

Thinking of growing peonies with your hydrangeas this season but you aren't sure if it's a good idea or not? These two beautifully blooming plants are garden favorites, and for good reason! In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago walks through if planting peonies with your hydrangeas is something you should do this season.

hydrangeas and peonies

When you are planning a garden the most important thing is that you are choosing plants that you love! It may be a bed of wildflowers, a formal garden with perfectly trimmed hedges, a cottage garden with whimsical flowers, or a mix of all of these. The possibilities are endless.

Is there such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to flowers? Many gardeners love to plant flowering shrubs next to large flowers. Two plants that come to mind are hydrangeas and peonies. Both of these plants have gorgeous flowers, and a reputation of being somewhat difficult plants when it comes to partner planting.

So, the question begs to be answered. Can you plant hydrangeas and peonies together? Let’s jump into the short answer, followed by a more detailed explanation!

The Short Answer

Yes! Peonies and hydrangeas are both classic garden plants with gorgeous flowers. Once established, both plants do not require much maintenance which makes them great garden partners. Typically, you’ll see peonies planted underneath hydrangeas. It’s more common to see them planted near hydrangeas when they are garden shrubs, and less so in containers since hydrangeas take up so much space inside an individual container.

The Long Answer

colorful hydrangeas bloom in the garden
Hydrangeas and peonies are excellent companions as they replace each other with flowering.

There are many reasons that both peonies and hydrangeas are well loved plants. I may be biased here but I think it might have something to do with their flowers. Their flowers are the exact reason that these two plants make great companions for each other.

Peonies bloom anywhere from the late spring into the late summer time, where hydrangeas bloom in the middle of the summer, lasting until the first frost. Just as the peonies are beginning to fade, hydrangeas begin to bloom and will pick up where the peonies left off.

Why The Bad Reputation?

Pink peonies bloom in the garden
It is important to give proper care to both hydrangeas and peonies so that they bloom without problems in your garden.

Both of these plants can carry a reputation as being a bit “finicky.” They both produce gorgeous results, and when those results are not expected it can be disappointing.

Usually the reason gardeners experience difficulty is because the plants have not been planted in the right location, or are not cared for properly. Peonies may fail to bloom if they do not receive enough sun. Whereas hydrangeas may not bloom if they are pruned at the wrong time, or get too much sun.

Choose Your The Right Species

Hydrangea paniculata
Hydrangea paniculata is an excellent companion for peonies as it prefers to grow in full sun.

Peonies love full sun, and most hydrangeas do not. Luckily there is Hydrangea paniculata. This variety of hydrangea loves full sun just like the peony. The panicle hydrangea can get quite large, growing to eight feet or more!

If you don’t have this kind of space for a large hydrangea, perhaps you have a pocket of shade in a mostly sunny perennial garden. The rest of the hydrangea species can tolerate partial sun of up to six hours per day.

Peony vs. Hydrangea Care

  • Both peonies and hydrangeas love well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
  • This soil should remain moist, but not wet.
  • Both peonies and hydrangeas need about one inch of water a week.
  • Mulching your gardens can help to retain this moisture.
  • Peonies will likely need to be supported, hydrangeas will not.
  • Peony rings can be found at most garden centers.
  • Peonies should be pruned once they are done blooming.
  • Hydrangea pruning is a bit more complicated.
  • However, they also can be pruned in the fall just after blooming.

Peony Varieties To Plant With Hydrangeas

So, we’ve now established that these two popular plants can be great partners in the garden. The next logical step is to take a deeper look at some of the most popular peony varieties that you can plant next to your hydrangeas this season. Each of these beautiful flowers can give your garden a little bit of extra color and charm.

‘Coral Charm’

Peony Coral Charm
‘Coral Charm’ produces semi-double coral flowers with a lovely fragrance.
  • Flower Color: Coral/ Orange
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet
  • Bloom Time: Mid Spring- Early Summer
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Mildly fragrant, semi double flowers. Glossy, smooth edged dark green foliage. Great used as a border plant. ‘Coral charm’ has beautiful orange/pink blooms. They grow fairly low to the ground, and bloom through early summer.

‘Coral Sunset’

peony Coral Sunset
‘Coral Sunset’ has fragrant peach-colored flowers with rich green foliage.
  • Flower Color: Coral/ Pink
  • Plant Size: 2 feet
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Mildly fragrant, semi double flowers. Deep green foliage. Excellent as a cut flower. Try planting in a mass. Similar to ‘Coral Charm’ in appearance, but slightly lighter. Also an excellent border plant due to the low height.

‘Kansas Double’

Kansas Double
‘Kansas Double’ produces huge carmine-red double flowers with loose frilly petals.
  • Flower Color: Red/ Pink
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet
  • Bloom Time: Mid to Late Spring
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Very large, double flowers. A gardener’s favorite. Use throughout a perennial garden. Would look stunning next to hydrangeas that have blue blooms. Also a low grower, which would make a great border plant for a garden bed.

‘Lady Orchid’

Lady Orchid
‘Lady Orchid’ has pale pink double flowers with a mild and delicate aroma.
  • Flower Color: Pink
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet
  • Bloom Time: Mid to late Spring
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Mildly fragrant, double flowers. Lush, green foliage. Plant as a backdrop for bulbs, and in front of your panicle hydrangeas. Because they need full sun, panicles are the only species I’d recommend planting these with. Their color will also compliment, as most panicles bloom white to pink.

‘Moonstone’

Moonstone
‘Moonstone’ produces creamy white double flowers with a pleasant aroma.
  • Flower Color: Creamy white
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet
  • Bloom Time: Spring to summer
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Highly fragrant, double flowers. Vibrant green, textured leaves will offer autumn interest in a shade of bronze. This flower is a lighter color, and will do well with both panicle and smooth hydrangeas.

‘Nancy Nora’

Nancy Nora
‘Nancy Nora’ has light pink double flowers with a rose scent.
  • Flower Color: Light Pink
  • Plant Size: 2-3 feet
  • Bloom Time: Mid-Spring
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun
  • Hardiness Zone 3-8

Rose scented, double flowers. Prolific green foliage. Wonderful cut flower. Use in your perennial beds or as a shrub border. Also a perfect pair for panicles, as this variety takes full sun, and while it can survive in partial sun, will not bloom nearly as frequently.

Peony Alternatives

Decided that peonies aren’t your thing? Let’s take a look at some alternatives that can also be planted near hydrangeas for an extra pop of color.

Allium

Allium
Allium is a magnificent bulb that produces a purple flower in the form of a ball.
  • Plant Type: Spring bulb
  • Plant Size:  Varies greatly with species, 1-8 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Hardiness Zone 3-9

Plant this spring bulb in your shade gardens. The purple globe shaped flower will pop up behind your shrubs and perennials, and will last for a long time.

These bulbs are resistant to animals, Allium come in many sizes from very short species that would be pretty on the edge of your garden, to the impressive 8 footers that are a specimen all on their own.

Dahlia

Dahlia
During the day, the sun should hit the Dahlia for at least 6 hours.
  • Plant Type: Perennial Bulb   
  • Plant Size: Varies greatly with species, 1-6 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Hardiness Zone 8-10

Dahlias come in many varieties, and endless sizes from pompons to dinner plates. These bulbs can be grown as perennials in warmer areas, or as annuals in areas that get a winter frost. If you live in one of these cooler zones, you can dig your tubers up at the end of the season and dry them in your basement.

Perennial Hibiscus

Perennial Hibiscus
Perennial Hibiscus is an upright shrub that produces flowers of various bright colors.
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Plant Size: 3-8 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
  • Hardiness Zone 5-9

These plants are perennial versions of the tropical hibiscus you may see sold as annuals. Their shape is an upright shrub that resembles that of a hydrangea. The flowers can reach eight inches across and come in a variety of bright colors.

In the fall, cut the stalks back to about knee height. The older stems will offer great support for next year, and when they old stems become too woody they will pull out easily.

Oriental Lily

Oriental Lily
Oriental Lily makes an excellent hydrangea companion as it grows well in partial shade.
  • Plant Type: Perennial bulb
  • Plant Size: 4 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Hardiness Zone 6-9

Plant these fragrant bulbs in the middle or back of your perennial garden for a classic pop of color. If you plant them in groups they can resemble the size and shape of a peony, and give you the amount of flowers you may be looking for. Leave the foliage after the flowers pass so the plant can continue to produce food for its bulb. Once the foliage turns brown, cut it to the ground.

Final Thoughts

Do not hesitate to plant these garden beauties together. Make sure they are getting the right amount of sunlight and proper care. With a little bit of TLC, you’ll have a beautiful garden combo that other gardeners will admire! Choose varieties that will fit your garden, the sun orientation and the hardiness zone you are in for best results.

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