Itoh Peony Types – Tips On Growing Hybrid Peonies In The Garden

By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

Peonies are popular garden plants with both herbaceous and tree peonies available. But there’s also another peony you can grow – hybrid peonies. Continue reading to learn more about Itoh peony types and growing hybrid peonies.

What are Itoh Peonies?

In the early 1900’s, plant breeders scoffed at the idea of cross breeding herbaceous peonies with tree peonies; the species were considered too different and incompatible. In 1948, after thousands of failed attempts, Japanese horticulturist, Dr. Toichi Itoh, successfully created seven peony hybrids from a tree peony bred with an herbaceous peony. These were the first Itoh peonies. Sadly, Dr. Itoh passed away before ever seeing his creations bloom. Years later, American horticulturist, Louis Smirnow bought some of these original Itoh peonies from Dr. Itoh’s widow and continued Itoh’s work.

Itoh Peony Types

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After Smirnow brought Itoh peonies to the United States, other plant breeders began to hybridize new varieties of Itoh peonies. These rare early Itoh peonies sold for anywhere between $500 and $1,000. Today, many nurseries grow Itoh peonies on a much larger scale, so they come in many varieties and are much more affordable.

Some available varieties of Itoh peonies are:

  • Bartzella
  • Cora Louise
  • First Arrival
  • Garden Treasure
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Keiko
  • Yumi
  • Kopper Kettle
  • Takara
  • Misaka
  • Magical Mystery Tour
  • Hillary
  • Julia Rose
  • Lafayette Escadrille
  • Love Affair
  • Morning Lilac
  • New Millennium
  • Pastel Splendor
  • Prairie Charm
  • White Emperor

Growing Hybrid Peonies

Also called intersectional peonies, Itoh peonies share qualities with both parent plants, tree and herbaceous peonies. Like tree peonies, they have large, long lasting blooms and strong stems that do not require staking. They also have dark green, lush, deeply lobed foliage that lasts until autumn.

While the foliage grows dense and healthy in full sun, the flowers will last longer if they get some light shade. Itohs are prolific bloomers and get a second set of blooms. They also can grow vigorously to 3 foot tall and 4 foot wide. Itoh peonies are also resistant to peony blight.

Plant Itoh peonies in full sun to part shade and in rich, well-drained soil. Itoh peonies are sensitive to high levels of nitrogen. When fertilizing in spring and summer, be sure to use a fertilizer that contains a low level of nitrogen, like 4-10-12. Do not fertilize peonies in late summer to fall.

Itohs can be deadheaded as needed throughout the spring and summer. In autumn, cut back Itoh peonies to about 4-6 inches up from the soil level. Like herbaceous peonies, Itoh peonies will come back in spring from the ground. In fall, you can also divide Itoh peonies just as you would divide herbaceous peonies.

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