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The Difference Between Ranunculus and Peonies

Difference Between Ranunculus And Peonies

Peonies are a favorite flower for so many of us, and it’s easy to see why. These beauts bring big, long-lasting blooms to gardens and arrangements alike and come in an array of bright colors.

That said, many of the flowers we might think of as peonies are another colorful bloom—the ranunculus. Ranunculus may sound like an unfamiliar name, but these guys are everywhere—and perhaps better known as buttercups. So, what’s the difference between ranunculus and peonies?

Both blooms deserve their place in our favorite Bouqs, but there are some apparent differences between the two varietals you might not be aware of. Here’s a quick breakdown of the difference between ranunculus and peonies:



Peonies are a special breed of flower that blooms during peony season. They live for a long time—in some cases, up to 100 years—and they can get huge. Peonies have been treated as meaningful symbols across India and China for centuries. A peony bouquet is also a popular choice at weddings, as it’s thought to be a symbol of a long and happy marriage.

Peonies bloom in the spring – during peony season – and are something of a planted contradiction. Their floppy, feminine blooms look like the picture of delicacy, but, these blooms are tough cookies. As perennials, they can withstand weather fluctuations and disease.

Peony season begins in the spring—the hardy plant begins to emerge after the winter frosts start to melt. The blooms, however, come into their own in late spring or early summer—and they’re truly a sight to behold. We cannot express deeply enough the sheer beauty of a peony bouquet!

Peonies do look similar to buttercups—or ranunculus, but there are some key differences. Peonies have prominent feathery stamens at their core, while the ranunculus has contained stamens that look like the center of a rose or a poppy, depending on the variety.

While there are several varieties of peonies out there—tree peonies, double peonies, Japanese peonies, etc.,— they all maintain a consistent look. Ranunculus, by contrast comes with a bit more variation.


Ranunculus are buttercups, while peonies fall into their own category—Paeonia. Ranunculi can be annuals or perennials, while peonies are strictly perennials.

The ranunculus is similar to peonies, but the main difference between ranunculus and peonies is, the bloom size is a bit smaller and the flower has a flatter shape. The bloom also has a lot of layers, like a peony, but the space between petals is much more clearly defined. As they start to open up, the flower starts to have an origami look. The leaves are crepe-y and open up in a perfectly folded manner.

Still, the ranunculus family is pretty diverse. There are over 600 species that can claim buttercup heritage, and as such, flowers come in various colors ranging from jewel tones to baby pinks and bright whites.

Again, these flowers can fall into the perennial or annual category, depending on the species. Some look like poppies, while others look more like a rose and a peony had a baby.

So, What’s the Difference between A Ranunculus and Peony Bouquet? Why Do They Get Mixed Up?

While it’s hard to mistake a peony for the small varieties of yellow buttercups you often see, ranunculus can get rather large. The ranunculus cortusfolius, for example, has those peony bouquet-like stamens and a wide-open spread. While the petals have a different look, it’s easy to see how a larger ranunculus variety in those peony pink tones could serve as a perfect dupe.

That said, ranunculus are stunners in their own right. The blooms are affectionately known as the roses of the Spring and come in these distinctive, rounded shapes.

Next time you’re making an online flower order, consider a ranunculus or peony. We’ve made them the star of several sweet Bouqs—head over to our ranunculus section and choose from a selection of adorable arrangements featuring supporting characters like kale and calla lilies.

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