Indiana State Flower - Peony

Peony plants are long-lived, with some growing and blossoming for more than 50 years.

Peony plants are long-lived, with some growing and blossoming for more than 50 years.

Peonies provide a burst of color in late May and are a staple of spring bouquets because of their striking blooms and some varieties' strong stems. Indiana chose the peony as the state flower in the mid-1950s and is one of only seven states that has an official flower that isn't native to its landscape. Peonies come in many varieties, but lawmakers didn't specify a type. The peony, in any form, holds the official state title.


Garden peonies come in five types, all of which produce large flowers in a wide variety of colors, including shades of red and pink as well as white, purple, yellow and black. Single peonies have at least five larger outer petals, called “guard petals,” and tend to lay flatter than other varieties. Japanese types have the guard petals, but some of the stamens are transformed into very narrow petals. Anemone peonies are similar to Japanese, except that the stamens are transformed fully into petals. Semi-double types don't have the guard petals, and they have a few stamens mixed throughout layers of small petals. Double peonies have no stamens and no guard petals. They have many layers of petals, giving them a more compact, dense look.


The peony was named Indiana's official flower in 1957, but it wasn't the state's first choice. The peony is the state's fourth flower. The first official bloom was the carnation in 1887. In 1923, the carnation was replaced by the blossom of the tulip poplar tree, an Indiana native. In 1931, the zinnia got the nod and was the state flower until 1957, when the flower debate began anew. Fans of the tulip poplar blossom advocated for a return to the native plant, and dogwood advocates rallied for its blooms, but a legislator who grew peonies prevailed, and the peony has been in place since.

How They Grow

Peonies grow best in full sun and well-drained soil and should be planted three to four feet apart to give them plenty of room to breathe. They can reach heights of 2 to 4 feet, and the taller, double types typically need support. The plants bloom in late May to early June and can remain in bloom for weeks. To get large blooms, snip smaller side buds and leave only the large bud on the end of each stem.

Fun Facts

Peonies were first cultivated in China, Siberia and Japan thousands of years ago. They were brought to the United States in the 1800s. Peonies have a long life, growing for more than 50 years. In fact, any of the peonies growing in Indiana date back to 1957, when they were planted as the state flower. Peonies, which bloom in late May, are often used in cemeteries to mark Memorial Day. There's even a variety called “Memorial Day.”

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