The World's Most Famous Peony

A perennial with gorgeous flowers and attractive foliage

March 18, 2014

‘Sarah Bernhardt’, first introduced by the French nurseryman Victor Lemoine back in 1906, is probably the best-known peony of all. Here’s why.

Those huge darker-centered, apple-blossom-pink flowers not only keep their color longer than many pink peonies before finally fading, but they are scented, too. Although the top-heavy blooms usually need some support in the garden, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is long lasting and unusually productive as a cut flower. Cut the stems just as the buds are showing color, and always add flower food to the water in the vase.


Before they even bloom, the new shoots of ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peonies emerge from the soil in this rich red coloring and will create a delightful picture if surrounded by blue scillas or white crocuses. The foliage turns green by flowering time and remains glossy and handsome long after the flowers have been cut or deadheaded. As fall approaches, the leaves develop reddish tints.

This easy-to-grow, sun-loving plant that is hardy to Zone 3 not only develops three different phases of color from spring to fall, but is scented and makes a good cut flower. It’s like having two or three plants for the price of one.

So now, whenever you look at a plant in flower at the nursery or see its picture in a catalog, why not ask: What else does it do?

Fall foliage

Spring shoots

Photos: ©