Peonies have the perfect blooms for a romantic, natural-looking, and herbaceous garden, but sadly peonies only bloom for a relatively short period of time, approximately seven to 10 days. Peony season usually lasts from late spring to early summer.
But you can have flowers identical to peonies that come late in the season, like some dahlias, or even much earlier, like Japanese quince or even camellias.
Then again, you may not have the perfect growing conditions for varieties of peony; you may not even live in the right climate zone, in fact…
But we can really help you here; look-a-like flower varieties can give you some of the “peony essence” or personality even when these flowers won’t grow or when your peony flowers begin fading in autumn and winter.
We found the ten ideal additions or alternatives for the traditional peonies for you, but which is the closest resemblance?
Let’s see how similar and different they are to and from peonies straight away!
10 Gorgeous Peony Look-Alikes Flowers For Your Garden
Peonies have a very unique look, but there are a few flowers that can resemble the delicate and elegant appearance of peonies, even if not perfectly.
Here are 10 great flowers that make ideal additions or replacements if you want peony-like blooms in your garden.
1. Cupped Roses (Rosa spp.)
Some roses look like peonies because of the rounded shape of their blooms, but not all of them; while hybrid tea varieties look nothing like our herbaceous perennials, cupped ones do.
Quite a few varieties fit this description, for example the pink ‘Alnwick Rose’ and ‘Sharifa Asma’ and ‘Heritage’, the pale cream rose ‘Carding Mill’ and the golden yellow ‘Graham Thomas’.
All these are English rose cultivars, and they have a bonus compared with peonies: they are all repeat bloomers and this means that you can enjoy their full and romantic looking blossoms for most of the season.
Roses are far more demanding than peonies, and their foliage is different, with 5 or sometimes 3 leaflets, but they are a (or “the”) famous garden classic, and they offer a longer lasting display.
2. Persian Buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus)
With a similar flower shape to peonies, balanced, sweet and globular, with cupped petals, Persian buttercup is a very good lookalike species.
Coming in a range of colors that go from white to purple with all the warm shades in between, always bright and bold and vibrant, these bulbous perennials will bloom a little longer than peonies, and they make excellent companions for them, as well as ideal cut flowers for bouquets.
Some varieties have large heads, up to 5 inches across (12 cm)! With long and straight stems, and finely cut leaves, they are easy to grow and always rewarding.
Adaptable to all informal beds and borders, Persian buttercup is a romantic flower, like peonies, and one that has an “old world” look, again, like peonies.
3. Poppy Anemones (Anemone coronaria)
Poppy anemones have cupped blooms, with large and rounded petals, like single peonies. They will start their colorful displays a bit earlier than Paeonia, but for a short time, they will be in blossom together.
Most have very dark almost black centers; others have a golden or lime green one, while the petals can be white, like in ‘The Bride”’, red with a white ring in the middle (‘Hollanda’), velvety violet in ‘Mr Fokker’ or a sumptuous deep purple with a small blue ring in ‘Bordeau’.
The super fine fern like foliage is an added asset for your garden, and they are incredibly easy to grow.
For beds and borders, poppy anemones add both texture and foliage, and you can also use them as cut flowers, a bit like you do with anemones.
4. Camellias (Camellia japonica)
Many camellias look like peony blooms, but some more than others, and we are going to see which and why.
‘Apple Blossom’ is a single variety with very pale rose broad and rounded petals and a very round bloom, like peonies, indeed. So is ‘Korean Fire’, but it’s red.
‘sweet Emily Kate’ is double with ruffled petals, light pink, and others that fit our description are ‘Don Mac’ and the classic snow white ‘Scents’. When the arrangement of the petals is irregular, the effect is similar, but you also get a lovely shrub with glossy and large leaves, as well as a much longer and different blooming season.
Camellias are not the easiest flowers to grow, however, unlike peonies; the actual maintenance is low, but they are delicate and demanding, especially when it comes to soil ph.
5. ‘Pink Paeony’ Opium Poppy (Pinaverium Somniferous ‘Pink Paeony’)
This cultivar of opium poppy even takes its name from our peonies, ‘Pink Paeony’, because it really looks like one. With a full, round bloom with salmon pink petals, broad on the outside and ruffled within, it is actually easy to confuse it for an actual Paeonia variety… The large flowers reach 5 inches across (12 cm) but they will come in summer.
The silver green foliage is heart shaped and serrated, quite attractive! Being an annual, it is easy to grow and it allows for changes in your garden composition. And don’t worry, it is not illegal: it will not produce any actual active principle, so, no headaches with the police!
Ideal for beds and borders, ‘Pink Paeony’ opium poppy is easy to grow from seed and it makes excellent cut flowers, even when the bloom is spent and you see the pods, which will last for months when dried.
6. Japanese Quinces (Chaenomeles speciosa)
Japanese quince varieties have the same round and romantic looking bloom shape as peonies, and some are more credible lookalikes than others.
For example, the lime green ‘Kishida’ is a double cultivar with gently cupped flowers filled with petals, the rose pink ‘Geisha Girl’ is not as full but still peony like, and the white and pink ‘Melrose’ is quite akin to single Paeonia types.
These early bloomers show their floral displays on hard, woody and wild looking stems when the foliage is just starting to grow, still sparse and light green in color.
For a natural looking shrubby corner of your garden or hedges, many Japanese quince varieties give you the bloom shape of peonies in a good and often unusual range of colors, but very early in the season, as soon as winter is over.
7. Dahlias (Dahlia spp.)
Dahlias and peonies are quite similar in many ways, especially when it comes to double and collarette varieties. Globular blooms, accompanied with fairly irregular petal arrangement give you that sweet and romantic look we are after.
Regular ones do not fit the description, but some like the delicately colored ‘Apricot Desire’ and the energetic but refined ‘Karma Gold’ or the sumptuous deep red and purple ‘Sam Hopkins’ do.
The petals are different, narrower, and they have softer stems and foliage, but maybe the main difference is that they blossom at a much later time, at the end of the season.
Grow dahlias them in herbaceous borders or beds for a naturalistic look, as if they were peonies, and remember that you can cut them and out them in a vase as well.
8. African Marigold (Tagetes erecta)
African marigold has globular blooms, much smaller than but similar to those of double peonies. Also the color range is smaller, from yellow to orange, but always bright and beautiful.
With many little and ruffled petals in each head, they also maintain the semi wild, natural look of Paeonia varieties.
The finely laced foliage adds a lot to the effect, and it is a very easy plant to grow. It is also an annual, and it blooms in the hot days of summer and the melancholy ones of fall. Easy to grow from seed and low maintenance, it is a very rewarding bloomer.
Grow African marigold in your kitchen garden or in low beds and borders, or in pots. However, do not grow it near peonies; it deters little ants that are so beneficial to the Paeonia genus.
9. Begonias (Begonia spp.)
Some begonias have very round, even large blooms with irregularly arranged petals, like many peonies, and some are ever ruffled.
Oddly enough, they start flowering just after the blossoms of peonies are spent, which allows you to extend the effect into late in the season.
Some quite similar are ‘Rose form Peach’, the impressive ‘Picoted Sunburst’, yellow with crimson and ruffled margins, or the ‘Nonstop’ series, with small and cupped head, which comes in orange, pink, yellow and bicolor varieties – and they are also early bloomers. The lush, fleshy and glossy foliage then finishes the effect with perfection.
Very generous with their blooms, begonias are also perfect for hanging baskets, unlike peonies, but flower beds will be perfectly fine too.
10. Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus)
With lovely frilled and ruffled petals, round flower heads and often an intoxicating scent, carnations too can be peony lookalikes. The color range starts with white and ends with purple all along the warm gamut.
Notable are ‘Super Trooper Orange’, oddly named as it is peach pink… Or ‘King of the Blacks’ again, nothing like its deep and dark red shade… Still, these beautiful and easy to grow, tough and healthy perennials can give you a similar effect to those of Paeony varieties that continues well into the summer months.
Wonderful for beds, borders and containers, carnations don’t only look like some of the peonies we all love, they are also outstanding cut flowers, thanks to their long life (up to 20 days in a vase) and long straight stems!
Flowers Like Peonies, But All Different
Peonies have a very well recognizable shape; famous for their romantic and natural looking beauty, they make a fleeting appearance.
But you can grow any of these varieties to have a similar effect, at different times of the year, or even in different climates and growing conditions.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.