White peony by Huw WilliamsPphoto by Huw Williams

Fast Facts

  • Proclaimed Indiana’s state flower in 1957
  • Botanical name: Paeonia
  • Varieties include the herbaceous peony and the Chinese peony
  • Peony trivia: The name peony derives from paeon, the Greek doctor of gods, because of the plant’s alleged healing powers.
  • Indiana Flower Delivery

Indiana has chosen no fewer than four plants as the Indiana state flower in its history, including the carnation, the tulip tree flower and the zinnia. Perhaps it’s a good thing that the state’s most recent choice, the peony, has staying power: the beautiful plant has been growing in its native China as well as in Japan and Siberia for more than 2,500 years!

Known for its magnificent, showy flowers, colorful foliage and the ability to bloom year after year, the peony has been an American favorite since its arrival from Europe in the 1800s. In Indiana, descendants of some of the state’s earliest peonies still grow today.

A perennial, the peony shrub reaches about 18 inches tall, with some plants growing to be several feet high. Peonies are relatively easy to care for, and their success derives from the plant’s ability to withstand seasonal temperatures and cold winters. In fact, the peony is such a hardy plant that it will faithfully bloom for as long as 50 years if undisturbed.

Peony by Ulf EliassonPhoto by Ulf Eliasson

Peonies thrive in Indiana’s climate, producing flowers from Fort Wayne to the capital city of Indianapolis (perhaps offering one more explanation for why lawmakers tapped the peony as Indiana’s state flower). Spectacular, round blooms open up in May in a delightful assortment of colors ranging from scarlet red and orange to lavender, magenta, gold and white.

In addition to its delightful color, the Indiana state flower gives off a strong, pleasant fragrance, especially when grown in abundance. Each spring at a peony farm outside of Evansville, flowers from 6,500 peonies fill the air with a wonderful scent.

When state lawmakers picked the peony as the Indiana state flower, they did not specify a particular color or variety. Since there are many varieties of the plant, Indianans have plenty of peonies to call their own. One of the most common is the herbaceous peony, which has single, double, and anemone forms. Single peony plants produce slender flowers with five petals, while the blooms of double peonies are much more substantial and round. Anemone types have broad leaves and pincushion-shaped blooms. While each is charming, the double form is a favorite cut flower, traditionally appearing in arrangements that adorn gravesites and markers on Memorial Day.

Indiana’s state flower is historic, hardy and beautiful. With all that it has going for it, it’s a good bet that the peony will be around for years to come.

Sources:

Department of Horticulture, Purdue University

Botany.com