Red Charm PeonyPaeonia lactiflora 'Red Charm'
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Paeonia lactiflora 'Red Charm'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Red Charm Peony is considered by experts to be the very best red peony you can grow. The enormous blooms are full and rounded, with a high center of fluted petals held within an outer circle of flat ones. The color is a stunning vibrant crimson red. The strong stems hold the blooms proudly above the dome of foliage, and this is a very early blooming variety that will extend your peony season by weeks. The foliage stays attractive all summer, and then turns red and gold in fall for a finale. Grow it among shrubs or beside a path. You can cut the blooms for vases – they last at least a week in water.
Full sun is the best location for the Red Charm Peony, but it tolerates a few hours of shade too. It grows best in rich, well-drained soil with plenty of organic material added, and used each year or two as fall mulch. The only work is removing the spent flowers and cutting down the stalks in late fall. Pest and disease free, this plant lives for decades and will become a beloved part of your garden.
If you don’t have a peony in your garden, then you should grow one. Their spectacular blooms are a seasonal highlight, and even out of bloom the foliage is attractive. If you only grow one peony, then the one to grow is – the Red Charm Peony. Prize-winning and adored by everyone, this is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular of them all, and widely recognized as the best red peony on the planet.
If you already have peonies, then you cannot be without the Red Charm Peony in your collection. Not only is it the best red peony there is, it is also one of the earliest in bloom, in its glory when others are still just in bud. It extends the season for these gorgeous plants considerably, and that alone would be enough of a reason, as if there weren’t plenty more already. The enormous blooms are rich wine red, with a high center of ruffled petals surrounded by a collar of flat ones, and it has a delicious spicy fragrance – just bury your face in it for an amazing sensory experience.
The Red Charm Peony is an herbaceous perennial plant, not a true shrub. That means it dies down to the ground each fall, and then re-sprouts next year from buds on the large underground root. Each plant sends up many stems, clothed in large, divided leaves that are smooth, glossy and rich green. Their unfolding in spring in a fascinating and dramatic annual event, and the young stems and leaves are a rich red, before turning green. In fall they color red and gold, which is a very worthwhile additional feature of this plant. The foliage and bush-like structure of the plant is attractive all summer, so even when not in bloom this is a valuable plant in the overall look of your garden.
At the end of every stem a large bud rises above the leaves, reaching a height in mature plants of about 3 feet. Plants expand as they grow, and within a few years your bush will have many stems and be 3 to 4 feet across in summer. As spring turns into summer those buds open to become massive blooms, at least 8 inches across, of an intense deep crimson. The reddest and richest of all the red peonies, this is the Scarlet O’Hara of the peony world. The bloom is of the type known as a bomb flower in ‘peony talk’. It has an outer circle of open, cup-shaped to flat petals, surrounding a high-centered ball of hundreds of slender petals, twisted, fluted and curled into dramatic coifs. To top it off the bloom has an intense spicy fragrance you will love – all flowers should smell this good.
Peonies are very versatile in the garden and they can be planted everywhere. Add them as specimens or groups in shrub beds, where they bring lots of early color. Use them in flower beds to add all-season structure and beauty. The Red Charm Peony is especially useful for its early blooming, and it will help you extend the peony season in your garden. With a little care in selection you can have 6 to 8 weeks of peonies in bloom. Grow them beside a path to be appreciated close-up, and in every style, from cottage gardens to formal beds. They are very useful in city gardens and courtyards, where they deliver more punch per square yard than just about anything else you can grow.
Hardy in zones 3 and 4, the Red Charm Peony is invaluable in colder gardens, where plant choices are more limited. This plant is also happy to grow all the way into zone 8, so almost everyone, everywhere can enjoy it.
Full sun will give you the best blooms and the strongest stems, but a few hours of shade each day will be tolerated well. Too much shade, and planting near trees, will reduce blooming and give you a weaker plant. The soil should be rich and well-drained – peonies like rich soil, so add plenty of compost or other organic material when preparing the site and use more as mulch in fall. Good soil preparation makes all the difference, and since this plant is long-lived, and doesn’t like being moved around, that little extra is a good investment. When planting check that the point where the stems join the root is 1 inch below the soil surface in most zones, and 2 inches below in zones 3 and 4.
The only care needed is to trim the dead flowers as soon as the petals drop. Cut just above the first leaf to leave your plant neat and rounded. With its sturdy stems, staking and peony rings are often not needed. Cut the dead leaves an inch or two above ground once they die, and mulch with rich organic material at that time, to feed your plant and protect the buds. Pests and diseases are almost never a problem in well-drained soil. Ants that you may see on the buds are helpful to the plant, making the buds open more easily by eating the sticky coating on them. They are not a pest problem.
You will find wild plants of the Chinese peony, Paeonia lactiflora, growing in northern China, from Tibet to eastern Siberia. Wild plants are pink or white, with just 5 big petals, but special forms have been grown in Chinese and Japanese gardens for centuries.
Once peonies arrived in America keen gardeners began to breed new colors and forms. One of the greatest was Lyman D. Glasscock from Elmwood, Illinois. He registered 79 new varieties during his long life, and the variety ‘Red Charm’ was his greatest achievement. It was placed in the Court of Honor at the Chicago Regional Show in 1943 when it was first shown, and it won the Peony Society’s highest award, the Gold Medal for Excellence, in 1956.
If you only grow one peony, make it this one. No garden is complete without one, and it remains as popular today as it was 75 years ago. Order your plant now, while our limited stock is still available.