Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Chinese Peony, Garden Peony
Paeonia lactiflora 'Festiva Maxima'

Family: Paeoniaceae
Genus: Paeonia (pay-OHN-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: lactiflora (lak-tee-FLOR-uh) (Info)
Cultivar: Festiva Maxima
Hybridized by Miellez; Year of Registration or Introduction: 1851

» View all varieties of Peonies

9 vendors have this plant for sale.

40 members have or want this plant for trade.


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Scarlet (Dark Red)
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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By kniphofia
Thumbnail #1 of Paeonia lactiflora by kniphofia

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Thumbnail #2 of Paeonia lactiflora by TomH3787

By kniphofia
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By RoyB
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By Gabrielle
Thumbnail #7 of Paeonia lactiflora by Gabrielle

There are a total of 26 photos.
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9 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral Brillig On Jul 21, 2014, Brillig from Spring, TX wrote:

My Mom grew this gorgeous peony successfully in Brownwood, in central Texas, for many years by defrosting the freezer in the middle of winter and piling the ice on the plants. (The accepted wisdom is that they won't grow below the Red River.) She won every flower show she entered with those beauties. I've been toying with the idea of doing the same thing here outside of Houston...I don't think the heat and humidity will bother them if they get some cold (and ice) in winter. If I ever do this, I'll let you know!

Positive SLFarmer On May 23, 2014, SLFarmer from Warrenton, VA wrote:

In 1949, my dad dug up Maxima Festiva that his father had originally planted around 1909 to plant at his house, then moved them in 1954 to a new house and yet again in 1962 to yet another house, then I came along and moved them from Missouri to Virginia in 1981. They are still beautiful--to look at and to delight in the fragrance. A great peony. Most of my blooms stand upright without support.

Positive Gracye On May 5, 2014, Gracye from Warrenton, VA wrote:

This, along with "Sarah Bernhardt," is what I remember as a child, in all the gardens. Nothing else seemed available.

The Festiva Maxima is truly the ONLY peony to grow, if you can only have one. It is the epitome of old-fashioned-ness. White picket fences, wide metal blinds fluttering in open windows, and yes, Festiva Maxima. Need say no more.

Positive coriaceous On Feb 9, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I consider this antique cultivar the best of all peonies for fragrance. Perhaps that accounts for its continuing popularity.

Peony cultivars vary a great deal in their fragrance---not just in strength of fragrance, but also in its quality. I find some are downright unpleasant. Not only is 'Festiva Maxima' the most fragrant, but (at least to my nose) it's the sweetest, with the best quality of fragrance, not heavy or musky.

Stems are long and the heavy flowers will sprawl on the ground without support. Peony hoops set in early in the season are the easiest way to support them.

If you garden in the southeast and want to experiment with growing peonies, you may be better off with early season cultivars that are single or anemone-form (especially in Z8), which are less likely to sprawl. Peonies will fail where they can't get enough days of cold-dormancy.

Positive laineygirl On May 17, 2013, laineygirl from Mountain Top, PA wrote:

Exquisitely fragrant! Very easy to grow, almost indestructible.

Neutral greenpixies On May 11, 2010, greenpixies from Natchitoches, LA wrote:

Hello! I grew up in the north where peonies were all around. I became a gardener in the south, in Louisiana. We dared not bother with them in New Orleans, but we live in Natchitoches now, central/north Louisiana. Technically we are in zone 8. It can be moist and swampy, but nothing like New Orleans. Can anyone reccomend peonies that will do well, here in the south? I'm dying to try a couple. Thanks for any suggestions!

Positive LauraSteele On Jan 10, 2010, LauraSteele from Fort Wayne, IN wrote:

This plant was introduced in 1851 by August Miellez. My great-grandfather planted our 'Festiva Maxima' in 1928 and it still looks lovely. It's never been moved or divided and is still the size of a bushel basket. Nice compact peony for smaller gardens. It grows about 30" tall and needs "caged" for support. It's one of the prettiest peonies you can grow.

Oops, my mistake. We have 'Le Cygne', not 'Festiva Maxima'. Guess I'll have to track one down...

Positive ifonly On Jul 29, 2008, ifonly from Brookfield, CT wrote:

If you can have only one - make it Festiva Maxima

Positive kniphofia On Jun 17, 2007, kniphofia from Morpeth
United Kingdom (Zone 8a) wrote:

One of the most essential plants in any peony garden. I have a large clump which I inherited from the previous owner of my house and every year it is simply breathtaking. Each flower is different because of the crimson flecks, and has a gorgeous rose scent. Extremely hardy and care free. Highly recommended!

Positive dayli On Jan 28, 2007, dayli from Vienna, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is my favorite peony, beautiful, fragrant and blooms like mad. It is reasonably priced because it has been wildly popular for more than 150 years and is easy to grow + easy to divide. You can't go wrong with this one!

Neutral Gabrielle On Mar 23, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

My information says that this is hardy in zones 3-8. Do not plant or mulch too deep or it will not bloom.

Positive Ivy1 On Jan 11, 2006, Ivy1 from Mystic, CT (Zone 6b) wrote:

Festiva Maxima is a lovely, creamy white flower with pinkish red markings radiating from the center of the plant in a whirling pattern.This is hands down the most fragrant plant I own. When it blooms, I can smell it from my house, which is about 30 feet away with a garage in between. It was given to me 8 years ago, planted in spring, and has never been any work at all. I stake it, and that's all I do. An absolutely fantastic plant!


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Montgomery, Alabama
Union Grove, Alabama
Wetumpka, Alabama
, Alberta
Booneville, Arkansas
Cazadero, California
Sacramento, California
Brookfield, Connecticut
Madison, Connecticut
Mystic, Connecticut
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Oxford, Connecticut
Atlanta, Georgia
Aurora, Illinois
Grayslake, Illinois
Washington, Illinois
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sheldon, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Ferriday, Louisiana
Durham, Maine
Gardiner, Maine
Skowhegan, Maine
Baltimore, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Billerica, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Lexington, Massachusetts
Pembroke, Massachusetts
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Eastpointe, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Warren, Michigan
Andover, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Cut Bank, Montana
Brick, New Jersey
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Croton On Hudson, New York
Ithaca, New York
Mount Vision, New York
New Hyde Park, New York
Rochester, New York
Southold, New York
Battleboro, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Belfield, North Dakota
Wilton, North Dakota
Bucyrus, Ohio
Hamilton, Ohio
West Chester, Ohio
Westerville, Ohio
Hubbard, Oregon
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
Mountain Top, Pennsylvania
Orangeburg, South Carolina
Hixson, Tennessee
Iron City, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Ooltewah, Tennessee
Del Valle, Texas
Garland, Texas
Farmington, Utah
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Warrenton, Virginia (2 reports)
Bellevue, Washington
Bremerton, Washington
Olympia, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Ravenswood, West Virginia
Madison, Wisconsin

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