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In Bloom Now At The IMA

Today's guest blogger is Anne Furlong, an intern in the IMA's Horticulture Department.

The Peony. Not only is it the state flower of Indiana, but these herbaceous perennials are also in bloom all around the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Paeonia lactiflora, also known as the Chinese peony or the common garden peony, flowers in late spring, usually during the month of May.

These large, fragrant blossoms come in a variety of colors ranging from red to yellow, white, cream, pastel pink and even deep fuchsia. They grow to be 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet tall and wide and require full sun to part shade. The flowers can be anywhere from 3 to 6 inches wide. Peonies thrive in rich, fertile, slightly acidic soils. They also do best in well-drained, moist soil.


Peonies not only have showy flowers, but also lush green foliage that will last all the way up until frost when the plants will die back to the ground. The larger tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa, is a woody shrub and will last throughout the winter. These tree peonies also have larger flowers than the common garden peony.

Ants are a common problem with peonies. These bugs are not necessary for pollination or any processes having to do with flower development. The ants are simply attracted to the sugary sap that seeps from the peony buds. They are not harmful to the peonies at all but can sometimes be a nuisance. The ants will eventually leave on their own but to keep ants off peonies you can apply an insecticide or plant peonies along with ant repellant plants such as geraniums or mint. You can also dip cut peonies into water to remove the resin and keep ants off your cut peony blooms.

On the grounds these beauties can be found in the border gardens, around the greenhouse, the formal garden, and in the orchard. The peony is an attractive fragrant flower blooming just in time for Memorial Day, use them to decorate for your festivities or simply plant one around your house for a pop of color come May.

A map of blooming peonies on the IMA campus

Filed under: Horticulture

5 Responses to “In Bloom Now At The IMA”

  • avatar
    Katie Says:

    Very nice Ann!

  • avatar
    Emily Says:

    I’ve been thinking about planting some peonies at home. When is the best time of year to do so?

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    Good job, Ann. I will add that while one can use an insecticide there is no need for it and I would strongly discourage it on all fronts. We have never used anything on peonies at the IMA even when we cut them for the Lilly House. As you say in your blog, just dip the blooms in water to get rid of most of the ants when you are cutting for a bouquet. And folks could do that in a bucket outside before bringing the flowers into the home – no ants in the house.

  • avatar

    Hi, Anne — congrats on your fellowship with the IMA horticulture department, a great group of dedicated, knowledgeable people. And congrats on your first blog for the department. I concur with Irvin Etienne, that an insecticide is not needed for ants on peonies. As you point out, dousing the flowers in water works well.

  • avatar

    Good job Anne. Take in all the knowledge you can from these wonderful caretakers of our beautiful grounds. It will benefit you for life !

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