Kansas PeonyPaeonia lactiflora ‘Kansas’
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Paeonia lactiflora ‘Kansas’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Kansas Peony is a superb double red peony of the highest quality with exceptional deep-red coloring that doesn’t fade. The large blooms are full and round, packed with petals of a rich red free of purple tones. The rounded bush grows to 36 inches tall and wide, fitting perfectly into your shrub beds or flower beds, with attractive foliage that looks great all summer too. This classic peony will win your heart, and come back year after year, with a reliable show that will bring your garden alive through June.
Full sun is best for the Kansas Peony, but it will also grow in light shade, including a bright north-facing position. It grows in any well-drained soil, preferring richer soils, and once established it will tolerate ordinary summer dryness easily. Removing spent flowers, cutting back in late fall, and an annual mulch is all the work it takes to grow this plant well. Pests, diseases and deer all leave it alone and anyone can easily grow this gorgeous plant.
Somewhere between shrubs and perennial flowers sit the Peonies. Their spectacular blooms catch our attention as few other flowers can – how can such a huge flower be real? From the moment in spring when they first rise from the ground, the large leaves are always attractive too, leaving an neat ‘shrub’ for summer once blooming is over, and often bringing fall tones of red and gold as well, before dying down for winter. Plant a peony and you have it for life, because the sturdy roots of these plants live for 50 years or more, making the couple of years they take to establish seem trivial. The ideal peony blooms reliably every year, stands tall without staking, and has colors that don’t fade significantly during the weeks the flowers are open. That sounds exactly like the Kansas Peony, whose big, rounded, double blooms glow with a clear deep red – a classic variety that still wins hearts. With peonies it always pays to grow these classic varieties – they are still around for a reason – and in the 80 years this plant has existed nothing has changed to diminish its glory.
The Kansas Peony is a rounded bush that stands 30 to 36 inches tall. It has numerous leaves that grow directly from buds on the roots, and these uncurl in spring from the ground, rising quickly into stems with large, divided leaves on their upper sections, forming a full, dome-shaped plant. The leaves are dark green, glossy, and they have deeply-cut edges, making an attractive plant even when the blooms are over. The foliage remains lush and healthy all through summer, turning gold and red tones in fall, and then withering and falling.
In early May you will see the first sign of buds at the end of each stem, and by the end of the month and in early June these will open into large flowers. The exceptionally strong stems carry one main central bud and two or three side buds that open a little later, extending the flowering season for several weeks. Unlike many inferior varieties the side buds of the Kansas Peony really do open into good-sized, full blooms. Each bloom is at least 6 inches across, and packed with many twisted and fluted petals, forming a fully double flower. The color is an intense red, without any purple tones, and while red peonies are notorious for fading to dirty pink, this flower hardly fades at all, and even after 10 days it is still a strong red with just a little pink toning.
This spectacular peony can be grown in traditional flower borders, but also among your shrubs, treating it as a regular bush, as many gardeners do today. Plant it in front of clipped evergreens around your home, or out in your shrub beds among roses, or later-blooming flowering shrubs. No garden is complete without peonies, and the Kansas Peony is a great plant to start with. The flowers can be cut when the buds show color, and they last well in vases.
Peonies are renowned for their hardiness, and they thrive even in zone 3, and from there into all the warmer zones, including zone 8. They are very adaptable to different climates, and grow well almost everywhere.
Full sun is best for the Kansas Peony, but a little shade is tolerated, and they will grow well at the foot of a bright, north-facing wall, especially in hot zones. Don’t be afraid to plant right out in the sun – you will see the most blooms there. All kinds of soil are tolerated well, except for wet, stagnant soils. Well-drained, rich sandy-loam soils are best.
Dig the ground deeply where you are planting, and mix in a good quantity of rich organic materials like compost or manures, as well as bone-meal or superphosphate. Plant with the base of the leaves just one or two inches below the surface – deep planting will delay blooming, often for years. It takes a couple of seasons for your new plant to become established, but it will live without disturbance for decades. When the blooms fade, cut them just above a side-bud, or the first leaf. In late fall cut down the leaves to 1 or 2 inches tall, and cover the plant and surrounding soil with a couple of inches of compost or manure. That’s it – no other care is needed, and this sturdy variety doesn’t need staking. Pests and diseases are rare, and deer don’t eat peony leaves.
The herbaceous peony, Paeonia lactiflora, grows wild from Tibet to eastern Siberia, and it has been revered and grown by the Chinese for centuries. Once it arrived in America it became hugely popular, and many of the best varieties were created in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Myron Bigger started growing peonies as a teenager on his family’s farm in Topeka, Kansas in the 1920s. He began breeding his own varieties soon after, and built a business selling cut flowers and roots in the fall, that eventually had him shipping flowers and plants around the world. He was twice president of the American Peony Society. He released his variety called ‘Kansas’ in 1940, It was Grand Champion at the American Peony Society National Exhibition show in 1950, and in 1957 it won that Society’s top award, a Gold Medal. Of the 65 varieties he registered during his life, ‘Kansas’ is considered to be among the very best of them all.
We love being able to offer the classics – and the best. You get both of those when you grow the Kansas Peony, and this variety remains hugely popular, for many very good reasons. Order now, because the best are always first to leave the farm.