Paeonia, Garden Peony, Heirloom Peony 'Festiva Maxima'

Paeonia lactiflora

Family: Paeoniaceae
Genus: Paeonia (pay-OHN-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: lactiflora (lak-tee-FLOR-uh) (Info)
Cultivar: Festiva Maxima
Hybridized by Miellez
Registered or introduced: 1851
» View all varieties of Peonies




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:

Unknown - Tell us

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

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


This plant is said to grow outdoors 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

Carrollton, Georgia

Aurora, Illinois

Elgin, Illinois

Grayslake, Illinois

Washington, Illinois

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Wilkinson, 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

Hinesburg, Vermont

Mechanicsville, Virginia

Warrenton, Virginia(2 reports)

Bellevue, Washington

Bremerton, Washington

Olympia, Washington

Port Orchard, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Ravenswood, West Virginia

Madison, Wisconsin

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Gardeners' Notes:


On Jan 13, 2022, David1949 from Ottawa, ON (Zone 4a) wrote:

I'm a landscape designer and avid gardener, and recommend it to all my clients, new and old gardeners alike. It's been around for a long, long time, and there's a good reason: it's the most beautiful, fragrant white herbaceous peony you can grow.
Beauty: white petals arranged around a crimson-flecked heart
Perfume: strong, but not overpowering, sweet but not cloying
Health: vigorous, disease free in my garden (USDA z4)
Iron clad perennial, laughs at our -25 winters.
Get it, you will never be sorry, and my clients have never been sorry.


On Jun 28, 2015, ellenfoster from Hinesburg, VT wrote:

Most beautiful and fragrant of all peonies. Mine has been transplanted twice in 20 years, from my old farmhouse to a temporary bed to my new farmhouse and bloomed many blossoms even on years when I transplanted it. The roots I left behind at my old house were up and blooming the very next year. Blooms smack dab in the middle of the season and has blooms for about 3 weeks. The flowers are enormous and in spite of strong stems, will droop, sometimes breaking over the edge of a peony hoop. Get very long supports for a very large hoop (you can buy them separately at Kinsman) and be ready to cut them right before or after a rain. They are worth every bit of effort that is needed.


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!


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.


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.


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.

As with all peonies, the eyes (underground growing tips) need light to form flower buds, and should not be covered by more than an inch of soil if you want flowers.
... read more


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

Exquisitely fragrant! Very easy to grow, almost indestructible.


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!


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...


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

If you can have only one - make it Festiva Maxima


On Jun 17, 2007, kniphofia from (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!


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!


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.


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!