Here are some fun and interesting facts about these beautiful shrubs:
They are the national favorite in their native China.
Tree peonies differ from herbaceous peonies in that they have woody stems like a shrub. The branches do not die back to the ground in winter as do the herbaceous varieties.
Exotic, uniquely colored, and often fragrant blooms are produced in the spring (usually May or June), measuring as much as 10 inches across. A mature specimen may bear up to 50 silken petaled show-stoppers all at once. Just think what that will add to your spring bouquets.
Tree Peonies offer just about year round interest. Starting with the handsome deeply cut foliage throughout the growing season, amazing blooms in the spring and some with their intense fall leaf color, there's color almost year round. As if that is not enough, the attractive seed pods will cling to the branches through most of the winter months. Now just picture those limbs and seed pods coated in frost or snow. What a beautiful winter sight it is!
They are hardy, deer-resistant, deciduous shrubs. The unnamed Tree Peony I have in my back yard also proved to be rabbit and gopher resistant. Nothing seemed to bother it, not even Japanese beetles.
They can grow up to 5-feet tall, or more, depending on the conditions in which they are grown. In nothern climates, it will take a number of years for them to reach this size. In warmer climates where there is a longer growing season, it will reach mature size sooner than in the north.
Growing zones 4 to 9. See link at bottom of article for tips on growing in warmer zone 9.
All photos were provided by Walters Gardens, Inc.
P. suffruticosa 'Hanakisoi': The large, coral-pink blossoms look like waterlilies floating above the green foliage of this lovely Tree Peony. Hanakisoi blooms in late spring to early summer for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the weather. When the temperatures are cooler, the blossoms last longer.
P. suffruticosa 'Hoki' ('Sweet 17'): Bright lipstick red, semi-double blooms in late spring. Bright yellow stamens nicely accent the colorful flowers.
P. suffruticosa 'Kamatanishiki' ('Kamata Tapestries'): Wisteria blue petals, fading at the edges, appear to shine in the sunlight. This is a semi-double variety. Blooms late spring.
P. suffruticosa 'Kinkaku' ('Golden Temple of Nara'): A multitiude of yellow petals edged in bright orange fill the fully double blooms of this variety. Bloom time late spring.
P. suffruticosa 'Kinshi' ('Golden Bird'): Huge, golden yellow, fully double blooms denote this variety. Bloom time late spring.
P. suffruticosa 'Sahohime' ('Princess Saho'): White, cup-shaped petals and a pale, reddish-purple eyezone make up the flowers of this semi-double variety. Late spring blooms.
P. suffruticosa 'Shimanishiki' ('Fire Flame'): Two-toned petals striped with rose-red and white comprise the flowers of this double variety. Late spring blooms.
P. suffruticosa 'Yagumo' ('Layered Clouds'): Sizable flowers with silky, wine-red petals fill out this semi-double variety. Late spring blooms.
Easy to follow growing and care instructions:
How to grow your Japanese Tree Peony: A permanent, sunny or partly shady site is ideal for Tree Peonies. Protection from afternoon sun and from harsh winds will help to prolong the lives of the the exotic flowers. Peonies will perform best in well-drained, evenly moist, rich soil with a pH near neutral and they are drought-tolerant once established.
The most critical aspect of planting peonies is correct planting depth. Grafted tree peonies should be planted so that the graft union (a bulge on the main stem) is 2 to 6 inches below the soil surface. The depth will protect it from freezing/thawing cycles, so plant 4 to 6 inches deep in northern zones and shollower in warmer zones. If planted correctly, the grafted plant will develop its own roots and the plant will be more robust as a result.
Though peonies may be slow to establish, you can be assured that they are developing a deep, substantial root system which will help to produce flowers that are well worth the wait. Once established, Peonies can live 50 years or more.
Peonies should not be over-fertilized. Any complete garden fertilizer, not too rich in nitrogen, works. Rose food and conservative applications of bone meal are ideal for peonies. Fertilizer should be applied mid to late spring around the drip line of the leaves. Over fertilization may reduce flowering. Spring and fall toppings of compost may be used instead of fertilizer.
After several years, the interior branches of the shrub may require pruning - for air circulation and flower production. Removing all but 6 to 12 of the strongest branches will help the peony flower more along its main branches and reduces fungus opportunity
Tree peonies will grow with winter lows of 30's and 40's F. Try fooling Mother Nature by forcing the peony into dormancy. If leaves do not fall off by November, cutting them off will mimic the deciduous leaf drop and cycles the plant into producing new flower buds. Do not cut the woody stems, feed or water during this period.
End-of-Season Care: Remove all foliage after a killing frost, including leaf petioles; discard away from your garden area, not in the compost pile. New plants should be mulched, and in the coldest areas should be wrapped with burlap or another material to protect from winter winds.
Calendar of Care
Early Spring: Topdress plants with an inch of compost or aged manure. Watch for signs of fungal disease and treat as needed. If a shoot rises from the rootstock, remove it.
Mid-Spring: Some varieties may need support for the heavy flowers. If the interior of the plant is crowded with foliage, thin it out to improve air circulation.
Late Spring: Do not overwater. Be diligent with deadheading spent blossoms and remove old flowers and petals from the garden.
Summer: Only water plants when soil dries out to a depth of four inches, and then water deeply. Foliar feeding with fish emulsion is appreciated.
Fall: Do not prune Tree Peonies back; they are woody shrubs. Remove all foliage after frost, but do not compost. Mulch new plants and those grown in the colder zones, and if cold winter winds are expected, wrap plants with burlap or other protective material.
Definitions of plant terms from The Free Dictionary:
Herbaceous - A plant lacking a permanent woody stem.
Shrub - A woody plant of relatively low height, having several stems rising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush.
Deciduous - Shedding or losing foliage at the end of the growing season
More information on growing Tree Peonies:
Cricket Hill Garden Information on growing in zone 9.
Planting a Tree Peony Great video on how to plant your Tree Peony.
How can you resist a shrub that gives year round interest? Looking at the above photos makes me excited just thinking about spring. My fingers can almost feel the wonderful silky texture of the blooms.
Head over to Mamajack's Co-op Cubit, she has a great co-op starting up for these beauties. Now all I have to do is decide which ones I must have, then I'll meet you there!