Ranunculus vs Peony: What Are The Differences?

When it comes to selecting flowers for your garden, special occasion, or even just to decorate your home, the choice between ranunculus and peonies can be a perplexing one. Both flowers are stunning and come with their own unique sets of characteristics. This article aims to unpack the various factors that differentiate these two popular blossoms, providing you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

While both ranunculus and peonies are captivating and make beautiful additions to any setting, there are distinct differences in their appearances, care requirements, blooming seasons, and symbolism. Read on for a comprehensive comparison of ranunculus vs peony.

What Are Ranunculus and Peonies?

Are ranunculus and peonies the same? No, they are not. Ranunculus belongs to the Ranunculaceae family and is native to the Middle East. It has over 600 species, and the Persian buttercup is perhaps the most popular of all. Peonies, on the other hand, belong to the Paeoniaceae family and are native to Asia, Europe, and North America. They have fewer species, approximately 33, but they are no less popular or breathtaking.

Ranunculus flowers are known for their densely layered petals that create a lush, almost spherical shape. Peonies are equally admired for their large, often fragrant blooms with numerous petals that give a lush appearance.

The difference between ranunculus and peonies goes beyond just their botanical families. Each flower has its own requirements for care, blooming season, and symbolic meanings, which we will delve into in this article.

Visual Differences

Peony vs ranunculus—when it comes to visual appeal, both flowers are eye-catching but for different reasons. Ranunculus flowers are generally smaller than peonies but make up for their size with their densely packed petals, creating a rose-like appearance. They also have a tighter bud, which gradually unfolds to reveal their intricate layers.

Peonies, on the other hand, often start with a tighter bud but bloom into a much larger, more voluminous flower. The petals are softer and less numerous but are often more randomly arranged, giving a ruffled, somewhat untamed appearance.

Each flower offers its own form of elegance and beauty, whether it’s the geometric intricacy found in a ranunculus flower vs peony’s free-form exuberance.

Caring for Ranunculus and Peonies

Both ranunculus and peonies require different types of care. Ranunculus prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can be a bit more sensitive to frost and generally require a milder climate. Mulching is advisable to help maintain moisture levels in the soil.

Peonies are more forgiving in terms of care. They are hardy perennials that can withstand colder temperatures and bloom year after year if planted in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Unlike ranunculus, they do not require frequent fertilizing and are generally less susceptible to pests.

In essence, if you are a beginner in gardening, peonies might be easier to start with. However, both are rewarding in their own right when given the proper care and attention.

Blooming Seasons

When considering the right flower for your garden or event, the timing of the bloom can be a significant factor. Ranunculus generally bloom in late winter to early spring, providing bright and cheerful colors during a time when many other flowers have yet to bloom.

Peonies have a more restricted blooming season, which usually falls between late spring and early summer. However, their blooms are long-lasting and can stay vibrant for up to two weeks, making them an excellent choice for longer-lasting arrangements or garden displays.

The blooming seasons for these flowers are different but can complement each other well. Having both in your garden can provide you with beautiful blooms from late winter all the way through early summer.

Color Varieties

When it comes to colors, both ranunculus and peonies offer a wide variety. Ranunculus flowers are commonly seen in bright yellows, oranges, and reds, although they are also available in softer shades like pink, peach, and white.

Peonies, on the other hand, are often found in pastel shades like pink, white, and lavender, but can also be seen in darker hues such as deep red and even blackish-purple.

Both flowers provide a palette rich enough to satisfy nearly any aesthetic taste, making them versatile choices for any occasion or setting.


Scent is another factor where the two flowers diverge. Most varieties of peonies are fragrant, offering a sweet and sometimes citrus-like aroma that can be quite captivating. The fragrance can range from mild to strong, depending on the variety.

Ranunculus, on the other hand, generally lacks fragrance. While they make up for this in their visual splendor, those looking for a scented flower might lean more towards peonies.

So if the fragrance is a must for you, peonies would be the more fitting choice. Otherwise, the lack of scent in ranunculus is often overlooked due to their striking visual appeal.


In terms of cost, ranunculus are generally less expensive than peonies. This is partly because ranunculus can be more easily cultivated in greenhouses, making them more readily available. Peonies, especially those that are rare or particularly fragrant, can be on the higher end of the price scale.

Both flowers offer different price points, making them accessible for different budgets. If cost is a significant concern, you may opt for ranunculus. However, if you are willing to splurge a bit for a luxurious, fragrant flower, peonies may be worth the investment.


Both ranunculus and peonies have their own sets of symbolic meanings. Ranunculus symbolizes charm and attractiveness, often given to show admiration for someone. Peonies represent wealth, honor, and romance, making them a popular choice for weddings and other significant life events.

While both flowers are used to express positive sentiments, the occasions or reasons for gifting them might differ based on their symbolism. Knowing what each flower represents can add an extra layer of thoughtfulness to your choice.

Common Uses

Because of their lush, romantic appearance, both flowers are popular choices for weddings and other celebratory events. However, the ranunculus flowers similar to peonies in look but smaller in size, are often used in corsages, boutonnieres, or as part of mixed flower arrangements.

Peonies are commonly used in larger arrangements like bouquets and centerpieces due to their size and fragrance. They are also frequently seen in gardens, adding a luxurious touch to outdoor spaces.

Each flower, with its unique characteristics, is suited for specific uses but can also be used interchangeably depending on the aesthetic and emotional message one wants to convey.


Finally, availability can be a crucial factor in your choice between ranunculus vs peony. Ranunculus is generally easier to find year-round due to its ability to be greenhouse-grown. This makes them a reliable choice for events outside their natural blooming season.

Peonies, on the other hand, have a shorter season and are not as easily available off-season. If you are planning an event and have your heart set on peonies, you’ll need to consider the timing carefully.

Both flowers can be sourced from specialized flower shops, online vendors, and even some supermarkets. However, availability will differ based on location and time of year.


When it comes to choosing between ranunculus vs peony, there are several factors to consider—appearance, care requirements, blooming seasons, color varieties, scent, cost, symbolism, common uses, and availability. Both flowers offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages, making the choice a highly personal one based on your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re decorating a space, planning a wedding, or simply adding to your garden, both ranunculus and peonies make beautiful, meaningful additions.