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Hydrangea vs Peony: Battle of Blooming

Peonies and hydrangeas are some of the best flowering plants for the garden. A considerable number of gardeners grow them around the world. However, not everyone has the opportunity to place both of these plants in the garden, so the question arises: which one to prefer?

The main difference between the Hydrangea and the Peony is that the Hydrangea does not die off in the winter, whereas the entire above-ground part of the Peony dies in the fall and is reborn in the spring. Also, Hydrangea has small flowers in large inflorescences, while Peony has large solitary flowers.

  Hydrangea Peony
Hardiness zone 3-9 3-9
Mature height 6-20 ft 4-7 ft
Mature width 8-15 ft 3 ft
Growth rate fast medium, fast
Light exposure full sun, partial shade full sun
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 6.0-7.0 6.5
Watering 2 time per week in a drought 1 time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, rabbits
Hydrangea vs Peony

Hydrangea and Peony

Their flowers are different

The main difference between peonies and hydrangeas are their flowers.

Peony flowers are solitary, i.e., they do not grow in inflorescences. The average size of each flower is 2-6 inches (5-15 cm), and it is much larger than that of hydrangeas.

Due to their size, peony flowers look very impressive. Large petals complement the beauty of flowers. Their number, depending on the variety, can be considerable.

Another feature is the center of peony flowers. There are pistils and stamens of relatively large size. Their color is yellow and perfectly contrasts with the petals.

On the other hand, hydrangea flowers are small and not very expressive (except for some varieties). However, the flowers grow in big inflorescences, and their number is enormous. As a result, we have large pompoms measuring 8-10 inches (20-25 cm).

The number of flowers on the peony and the number of inflorescences on the hydrangea is about the same. However, due to the large inflorescences, the hydrangea looks lusher.

It is difficult to say which of these plants looks more beautiful during flowering. Therefore, for now, the score is equal.

Hydrangea blooms longer than a peony

In this particular comparison, peonies lose to hydrangeas because their flowering period is much shorter.

Peonies bloom in late spring or early summer (May-June). Depending on the variety, flowering can last 7-10 days, then the petals fall off, and the beauty ends.

Herbaceous peonies bloom the longest. However, tree peonies have larger flowers.

Gardeners use various tricks to prolong the flowering period. The most common is the planting of varieties that have different flowering periods side by side. As a result, they get continuous flowering for about two months.

There are also several varieties whose flowers last a little longer than all other peonies. One such is Scarlet O’Hara.

Besides, you can find a particular type of peonies called Itoh. This is a group of hybrid varieties (the result of crossing herbaceous and tree peonies) with an extended flowering period of up to 3 weeks and large flowers reaching 8 inches across.

To make peonies bloom longer and lusher, you need to give them at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight (for tree peonies, no more than 5-6 hours).

Please prune the faded flowers; it will save energy for further flowering. Also, do not forget to spray the plants from pests and diseases. Do not overfeed your peonies to reduce the number of foliage and increase the number of flowers.

Another negative side of peony flowers is that in heavy rain and wind, the petals fall off. Therefore, the flowering period can be even less than a week if the weather is not favorable. Hydrangea does not have such a problem.

All the above tricks can not increase the duration of flowering peonies to the level of hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas begin to bloom in late spring and continue until mid-summer. Which means the flowers stay alive for two months. And even after they fade, you can leave them until winter, and they will decorate the garden.

Some varieties bloom longer under favorable conditions (almost all summer). Depending on the climate, the beginning of flowering and duration may vary.

Some hydrangeas bloom on both young and old wood; it’s called reblooming. This means that they bloom on last year’s wood in spring, and this lasts until mid-summer. Then young wood is formed, and the hydrangea blooms again from about July to September.

If your hydrangeas grow in the right conditions (light, water, etc.), and you will remove the faded flowers, you can achieve almost continuous flowering throughout the season. This is not available for peonies.

Peony is smaller

In general, peonies are smaller than hydrangeas. Some peonies can reach 11 feet, but usually, most ornamental varieties are smaller.

Herbaceous peonies reach 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) in height, rarely 4 feet (1.2 m). The width does not exceed 3 feet.

Tree peonies are 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 m) high, sometimes exceeding 7 feet (2 m). However, they do not look like a classic tree; they shape a woody shrub.

Hydrangeas are not only taller but also slightly wider than peonies. Some varieties can be twice or even three times larger than peonies.

The popular Oakleaf Hydrangea is five feet high and the same width on average, although it depends on the variety.

Bigleaf Hydrangea grows up to 6-7 feet in height and up to 8 in width.

One of the largest varieties is Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora.’ Its height can exceed 20 feet (6 m) and width 15 feet (4.5 m).

Also, I have to mention the climbing hydrangea. It can climb to a height of up to 80 feet (more than 20 meters), of course, if there is a frame or tree of suitable size.

Given the difference in the size of peonies and hydrangeas, we can conclude that peonies are more compact plants that can be planted even in a flower bed near the house.

Hydrangeas need more space, especially if you want to see all their beauty.

Hydrangea don’t die back for the winter

All hydrangeas are woody plants; therefore, they don’t die back for the winter. They can withstand heavy frosts and can grow in hardiness zone 3.

Peonies mostly are herbaceous plants, so their foliage and stems can’t stay alive during the winter. In fall, they die back and in the next spring, start to grow again.

But here is one exception, is the tree peonies. Tree peonies like hydrangeas have woody stems and can survive winter without losing the plant’s top part.

If the plant does not lose its top part, it can spend more energy forming more giant flowers. This is the case with hydrangeas and tree peonies. Hydrangeas have many more flowers, and tree peonies have larger flowers.

Herbaceous peonies need pruning at the end of the season. It would be best if you pruned them into the ground level. Also, throw away all plant remains in the garbage, don’t leave them to rot in the garden.

With hydrangeas, you need only a clean garden from fallen leaves, and that’s it.

Peonies are more fragrant

In smell, hydrangea loses to peonies. Some people find Oakleaf and Paniculata hydrangeas fragrant, but this is a subjective perception. In fact, hydrangeas emit little odor, so it is almost not noticeable.

On the other hand, peonies are very fragrant, and their aroma can be caught at a considerable distance, although it does not last long.

The most fragrant varieties are white. Among them stands out Duchesse de Nemours; it has snow-white petals and a divine aroma.

Pink double (with a large number of rows of petals) varieties also have a strong smell. These include Hermione and Cora Stubbs; their petals are beautifully shaped and have white parts.

Red peonies are considered less fragrant. However, there are exceptions, such as Henry Bockstoce. It has fragrant flowers of considerable size; their diameter reaches eight inches.

Peonies need more sun

Hydrangeas do not need much sun; they need an average of 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for flowering. Some species need a little more sun, some less.

Also, in colder areas, hydrangeas can withstand more sun exposure (8 hours), but in general, they need shading in the afternoon. The best for them is the gentle morning sun.

On the other hand, peonies need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. They feel the best in the open space (10-12 hours of direct sunlight). In this case, their flowers will be lush and abundant.

Otherwise, peonies may not bloom, and their foliage will be poor.

The exception will be hot areas in the south, where peonies will benefit from some shading in the afternoon.

Returning to hydrangeas, the excess sun can cause the leaves to wither and the flowers to get burns; they will not look beautiful in the end. Hydrangeas will also need more water to survive in the open spot.

I want to recommend to you my article, How Much Sun Do Hydrangeas Need? There you can find the sunlight requirements of all species of hydrangea and other useful information.

Peonies need additional support

It often happens that peony bushes reach significant sizes, and in adverse weather (wind, rain), they collapse and fall to the ground.

As a result, the plant loses its original appearance, and if nothing is done, it will not be the same as before. You will need to tie the branches to the support or make a frame around it.

Hydrangeas do not have such a problem; their stems are woody and quite strong. Wind and rain cannot cause significant damage to hydrangeas, i.e., they do not need support.

The exception is climbing hydrangeas, which are continually crawling upwards. Without a frame or support, they will not look beautiful.

The easiest way to avoid the collapse of peonies is to tie them with a rope in a bundle. You can also insert a stick near the bush and tie the stems to it.

However, the best way is to install beautiful supports for peonies that can be found on sale; they will allow your plants to look more elegant.

Due to the need for a frame, peonies require more care than hydrangeas.

Peonies and hydrangeas have different ways of propagation

Another difference between peonies and hydrangeas is the method of propagation.

Peonies multiply by dividing the rhizome. You need to separate the rhizome, which has sufficient size, into two or more parts, and plant them in a new place.

With hydrangeas, everything is different. They can also be propagated by division, but this is not the best way. Hydrangeas are best propagated by cuttings. It is easy and fast; anyone can do it.

Peonies are not propagated by cuttings at all; any attempt to root a branch will fail. The exception is tree peonies that can be propagated in this way.

From one hydrangea bush, you can get a dozen or more new plants. While with one peony, you will be able to get an average of up to 5 new plants.

Hydrangea can change color

Depending on the acidity of the soil, the hydrangea can change the color of flowers. This feature makes growing hydrangeas more fun.

Unfortunately, peonies can not change color depending on growing conditions.

In neutral soil (most soils are neutral), some hydrangeas will have purple flowers.

To obtain pink flowers, the soil must be alkaline. To achieve a high level of soil alkalinity, you need to add garden lime.

The most beautiful blue color hydrangeas acquire in acidic soil. This is due to the absorption of aluminum by the plant. To achieve the desired effect, you need to add aluminum sulfate to the soil. Such soil will also help you avoid chlorosis. If you have had a similar problem, the solution is here.

Changing the color is quite a long process; it can take more than a year, so you need to be patient.