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Sarah Bernhardt Peony


  • Hardy Zones: 3-8
  • Spacing: 36"
  • Height: 24-30"
  • Blooms: Late spring to early summer
  • Planting Depth: Plant with eyes 1" below soil surface
  • Full Sun Full Sun
  • Partial Shade Partial Shade
  • Good for cutting Good for cutting
  • Deer resistant Deer resistant
  • Fragrant Fragrant

Sarah Bernhardt Peony

Paeonia lactiflora


Peonies are in the Peony family, Paeoniaceae, and native to temperate Eurasia. They have been in cultivation for over 2000 years. Individual plants may live up to 50 years. They will not flower the first year of planting, and can take up to two years to produce their showy, fragrant blooms. Named after the pioneer silent movie actress, the Sarah Bernhardt peony will produce large, double, pink flowers.


Peonies are long-lived and resent disturbance, so choose the site carefully and prepare the soil well. Choose an area that receives full or filtered sunlight and is not near large trees or shrubs that will compete for space and nutrients. For best results, dig the planting hole 18” deep and 18” wide. Fill the bottom 4” with organic matter, such as compost or well-aged manure, mixing in a couple cups of bone meal or plant food. Fill the hole with soil, amending with organic matter if necessary. The soil must be well-draining. Plant the roots near the surface, making sure the “eyes,” the pink growth tips, are facing upward and about 1” deep. If planted more than 2” deep, the plant may not flower. Spread the roots outward and gently firm the soil around them. Water well.


Peonies will not bloom the first year. When they do flower, they require staking to support their large, heavy blooms. Install a stake or flower support when growth begins in the spring. When leaf growth starts, feed with a well-balanced fertilizer and mulch with organic matter to retain moisture and keep the soil cool. Feed again midway through the growing season. When dry, water deeply. Remove faded flowers to divert energy into next year’s blooms.


Peonies are quite hardy and actually require a cold dormancy period for successful blooming. When the foliage dies back in the autumn, cut the stems back to 3”. Remove the old mulch and cover with a fresh dressing for the winter, such as loose straw or evergreen boughs.

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