A refined and elegant woodland species from the cold woodlands of Northern Japan. Slender, compact growth and restrained height, even a mature clump will not exceed 50 cm across and high.
It bears gorgeous blue-green, leaves on slender reddish petioles, held by red stems. Around May pure white, satin bowls open to reveal a tiny claret-coloured centre surrounded by chrome yellow anthers. This plant just oozes refined elegance.
Seed heads follow and burst open to show bright red sterile seeds jostling with lovely, fertile, indigo seeds with a metallic sheen.
Despite flowering early, the buds and flowers bear frost very well and in the US it is regarded as hardy down to zone 4. In the UK and most of Europe cold isn’t likely to be a problem.
Fertile, humus rich soil in part shade, out in the garden but like all Paeonia, it won’t give its best (and may not even flower) in its first year with you. That is simply the nature of Paeonia.
Current fashion has suggested that this species is shoved into P.obovata. This may be fine botanically, based on dried specimens in the herbarium but horticulturally, P.obovata is much later-flowering, larger, pink-flowered and grows it in both Japan and China. P. japonica on the other hand is far earlier to flower, is smaller in growth and in flower (though only slightly in flower), has different foliage, is white-flowered and is restricted to Japan. Dried and flattened they may resemble each other but the two really have very few similarities in the living state in the garden.