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The Itoh Peony: An Orange County Favorite

The Itoh peony is truly in a league of its own. You can’t help but swoon over its elegant blooms that stand atop tall, sturdy stems—no staking required!

It arrived on the scene in 1948 thanks to Japanese horticulturist Dr. Toichi Itoh, and gardeners have been scrambling to find some for their own home gardens ever since. Also known as the intersectional peony, this gorgeous group of peony hybrids has a remarkable history. Find out why Orange County can’t get enough of this fascinating flower!

What’s So Special About the Itoh Peony?

There used to be two distinct, very different peony varieties: the tree peony, and the herbaceous peony. For years, scientists tried and failed to create a hybrid between the two—they were just too different to properly splice together. But finally, Dr. Itoh was successful in creating seven hybrid peonies that bloomed beautifully.

The tragic part of the story is that Dr. Itoh passed away before he could see his peonies produce their legendary blossoms. Luckily, his wife kept them alive, and sold some of them to another horticulturist, Dr. Louis Smirnow, who continued breeding them, and eventually introducing them to the American market.

In those early years when the Itoh peony was fresh on the scene, they were a real hot commodity. Some sold for up to $1000 per plant! Now that over 70 years have passed, Itoh’s are much easier to find, and far less expensive. Plus, there are so many spectacular varieties and colors available! It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite.

How Big Do Itoh Peonies Get?

People are often surprised at how big this peony gets! At their largest, they can reach up to 3 feet high and 4 feet wide. They grow surprisingly fast, so it’s recommended that you cut them back every autumn after they’ve finished blooming, down to about 6 inches high. In spring, they’ll reemerge and will bounce back to their colossal full size in no time!

Itoh Peony Care

Plant your Itoh peony in a spot with full sun to partial shade, in nutrient-rich soil with excellent drainage. Mixing in some compost before planting will result in extra healthy soil, delivering valuable nutrients to your plants. Be careful when fertilizing—Itoh peonies are very sensitive to nitrogen, so use an organic fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and leave out the numbers. Fertilize in spring and early summer, but stop fertilizing by August 1st.

Deadheading old peony blooms regularly will help encourage reblooming, so you can enjoy those giant, ruffled flowers for even longer. They also make great cut flowers, but their stems are a bit thick. Use high-quality bypass shears that have been thoroughly sanitized, to ensure you don’t injure the plant.

Our Favorite Itoh Peony Varieties in Orange County

It seemed impossible, but we’ve managed to narrow down our list of the most amazing Itoh peony varieties available in Orange County. Check out some of these show-stopping beauties at our garden center:

● Cora Louise: An icy white, ruffled peony with a rich raspberry center and a cluster of golden stamens.

● Bartzella: A sunny yellow variety that brightens up the landscape.

Julia Rose: A coral-pink, semi-double peony with subtle variegation that looks as though it was painted with watercolors.

● Garden Treasure: Dreamy butter-yellow blooms with a charming, vintage feel.

● Canary Brilliants: A delicate peachy shade with little hints of pink throughout.

● Oochigeas: Pastel pink with a strikingly bold, wine-tinted center.

● Yumi: Nearly translucent butter-yellow petals.

● Keiko: Dark lavender-pink petals that fade to soft pink with yellow centers.

● Takara: Pale yellow petals with a lavender-pink blush, matures to white with a burgundy flare in the center.

● Misaka: Flowers open orange and fade to yellow-peach, with a dark red flare in the center.

● Kopper Kettle: Flowers open with rosy copper tones and mature to pale gold with a deep burgundy flare in the centers.

● Duchesse de Lorraine: Bright yellow ball-like flowers, loaded with petals and delightful fragrance.

● Strawberry Creme Brulee: Flowers open dark pink and mature to salmon with burgundy flares in the center.

● Scarlet Heaven: Show-stopping deep red flowers with bright yellow stamens.

● Yankee Doodle Dandy: Flowers feature deep pink and cream tones and dark plum flares in the center.

● Lollipop: Flowers emerge yellow and develop purple stripes as they mature.

● Singing in the Rain: Semi-double flowers with an apricot-salmon flush and a ring of gold stamens.

● Caroline Constabel: A large-cupped beauty featuring light reddish-pink double flowers.

Want to add a new Itoh peony variety to your garden this year? You’ll find the best selection of Itoh peonies for sale in Orange County at Roger’s Gardens—but don’t wait, these popular peonies come in in late winter and sell out each year in early spring! Choose your new favorite today—your garden will have never looked better, and your homegrown bouquet arrangements will be downright enviable.