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How to Arrange Peonies: Five Gorgeous Ideas

Peonies in a flower pot vase

Peonies in a flower pot vase

A Bounty of Peonies

Nature’s bounty extends to many things, including vegetables and flowers. The thing about a bounty is that it is just that—a whole bunch of something all at once. You know how it works, as you scramble to cut, clean and freeze the mountains of rhubarb that appear overnight in your garden, or when your tomato plants have so much fruit on them that even your neighbors aren’t accepting any more “gifts” from you?

Peonies are the same, although I wish there was a way to preserve them in their original state to enjoy later. I can’t imagine anything that would brighten a dreary, freezing January day quite like the sight and smell of a big vase of peonies. They are late spring flowers here, and when a peony bush blooms, all of a sudden you have way too many flowers and not enough vases. Talk about a bounty!

Ants enjoying nectar on a peony bud

Ants enjoying nectar on a peony bud

Where Do Peonies Come From?

The peony gets its name from Paean, an unfortunate Greek who was turned into a flower by Zeus in order to save him from an even worse fate. Peonies are native to Asia and southern parts of Europe, as well as the western part of North America. Peonies most often occur as bushes that average about three feet in height, but also come in tree form, with the trees reaching up to ten feet in height.

The peony is the traditional flower of China, and it appears on many beautifully painted and carved items—including those from some very early dynasties—with the flower representing prosperity or riches.

What Colors Do Peonies Come In?

Peonies come in many different shades, from simple and elegant white to passionate, energetic red, through pinks and yellows and combinations of colors. Peony buds are often covered with ants, which are attracted by the sticky nectar that appears on the bud. Many people believe that the ants are required for the flower to open, but this is not the case.

Tip: When cutting peonies to bring into the house, it is always wise to give them a good shake upside down to rid them of ants.

5 Beautiful Ideas for Arranging Peonies

Peonies are so very versatile, and because they are so beautiful there isn’t really much that has to be done to them in order to create an attractive display. If you are looking for some different ideas though, here are a few you can try.

1. Flower Pot Vase

These vases are so-named because they are shaped like flower pots. They are also inexpensive—I found mine in a dollar store. Measure the correct length required for the stem. This will be equal to the height of the narrower part of the flower pot vase and will allow the flowers to stand up properly. I like to leave mine long enough so an inch or so of the flowers are poking above the rim.

Cut the stems of enough flowers to fill the pot; often three will do it, but this will depend on the size of the flowers and your pot. Bunch them together by grabbing the flowers by the petals, and tuck them in against one another. Fill the vase with enough water to reach the underside of the flowers. You can cut the remaining stems so there are some leaves on stems by themselves; these can be tucked in around the flowers.

A peony in a beautiful water glass

A peony in a beautiful water glass

2. Old Water Glasses

You can try a couple of variations here. I found these old glasses (photo above) at a flea market. The base on them makes them perfect for flowers or candles, as they aren't prone to tipping over. Fill the glass with either clear or colored glass beads, then insert one perfect peony and fill the glass with water.

Peony martini, anyone?

Peony martini, anyone?

3. Cocktail or Martini Glasses

Alternatively, try putting a peony in an old cocktail glass like the sort used for a Manhattan. Or inexpensive colored plastic martini glasses, like the one shown in the photo below. I found these at the dollar store. Cut the stem of the peony very short and stuff the peony into the glass. Fill with enough water to keep the flower fresh. Plastic is much safer for the patio too, so you can decorate the table for your next bbq.


4. Floating Peony and Tea Light Centerpiece

Peonies will float, so you can also create an attractive centerpiece by combining peonies and tea lights together in a large bowl. Simply cut the stem off and float the flowers and the tea lights in the bowl. Use on your table instead of regular candles . . . so pretty!

A floral centerpiece with colored water

A floral centerpiece with colored water

5. Add a Dash of Color to the Water

Finally, using a clear bowl, add a dash of food coloring to the water so that the color matches your table napkins or dinnerware. Float a peony or two in the water and place it on the table as a centerpiece like the one shown in the photo above. Simple and beautiful!

More Beautiful Ideas for Arranging Peonies


Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 05, 2012:

Hi bac2basics...thank you for the wonderful feedback; you are very welcome. I too am always amazed when they come up in the spring. I mulch them in the fall to provide a little insulation from the cold :-)

Anne from United Kingdom on June 04, 2012:

Hi Kaili. I really really love Peonies. I had one in my last garden in the UK and was totally amazed every spring when I saw the fat shoots emerging after long hard winters, they look so delicate it didn´t seem possible. Love your ideas for floating them in water too, how inventive. Thank you so much.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 04, 2012:

You are most welcome :-)

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on June 04, 2012:

Great advice about the ants. Thank you.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 04, 2012:

Hi tobusiness and thank you for the feedback. I have four bushes but only my white ones have bloomed so far, so it is a bit spread out this year at least...they usually all arrive at once then are gone.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on June 04, 2012:

Lovely pictures and very useful tips for flower arrangement.

I love peonies and I always have them in the garden, my only problem with this beautiful bloom is that it is gone much too soon. Thank you for sharing.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 04, 2012:

Hi pagesvoice. My peonies too don't seem to require any attention at all to bloom like mad. And yes, we have had rain for the last couple of days and so they are all lying on the ground right now. I have found it doesn't help much to stake and tie them, as the stems bend due to the weight of the flowers. So I just shake the water off...and the ants. Hold the flower upside down and give it a good shake....the ants will fall out :-)

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on June 04, 2012:

I enjoyed your article and the accompanying pictures regarding peonies. I have grown peonies for years. Actually, this flower grows with little to no help from me. However, each year...and this one is no exception...when my peonies bloom, it inevitably rains and there goes the flowers. They droop and sag like limp noodles. Also, I never bring these flowers in the house because they are loaded with ants. I'm curious if you experience the same problems?

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 03, 2012:

Hi aviannovice and thank you for the wonderful compliment. Mostly it is about finding more than one use for everything. I live in a small house, so not much storage. Everything has to do double duty, so bowls and glasses become vases etc. :-)

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 03, 2012:

Voted awesome and up. You must be quite the decorator. I never heard of any of these things to do.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 03, 2012:

Hi DD...yes, they are so pretty. I have never seen a peony tree personally...on my list!

Daffy Duck from Cornelius, Oregon on June 03, 2012:

That's a pretty flower. I had no idea they were a tree as well as a regular flower bush. Interesting.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 03, 2012:

You are so welcome teaches. Glad this brought back fond memories. We always had them in our garden when I was growing up, and my Grandmother had a yard full of them.

Kaili Bisson (author) from Canada on June 03, 2012:

Thank you should smell my house! :-)

Dianna Mendez on June 03, 2012:

I had forgotton about this flower. My mother had these flowering bushes in her garden and we loved top pick them for floral arrangements. They did seem to attract the big black ants though and we had to shake them off before taking them inside. Thanks for the memories and lovely photos.

Danette Watt from Illinois on June 03, 2012:

Beautiful pictures!