Peonies have 3 different varieties: herbaceous, tree, and itoh. However, Tree Peonies are a popular choice for their large beautiful blooms and deciduous, woody stems.
Tree Peonies are a fragrant, hardy, shrub sized plant with large vibrant blooms and dark green foliage. Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies' stems don't die back into the ground. Their woody stems remain all year, but their foliage is lost in the fall. The plant flowers from late spring to early summer and shows off its single or double petals, with the blooms sometimes reaching 10 inches in diameter. One plant alone can have over 50 blooms. Blooms come in a variety of colors including white, pink, red, purple, yellow, or any variation of multicolors.
What are Tree Peonies?
Originally from China, Tree Peonies have found themselves across the globe. Thousands of years ago, they were used for their medicinal properties. In ancient China and Europe, people would use dried roots to help treat involuntary muscle spasms and various other nervous system problems.
Chinese Buddhist monks are credited for taking the Tree Peony to Japan, where gardeners further developed the plant and created different varieties of it. So now, the Tree Peony has many different varieties, each depending on the nation from which it originated.
The Chinese variation of Tree Peonies may be more difficult to find as well as being more difficult to grow.
Tree Peonies belong to the Paeoniaceae family and the Paeonia genus. Its botanical name is Paeonia suffruticosa.
How to Grow Tree Peonies
Where it Grows
The Tree Peony grows best outside in the garden, lining a walkway, and for creating interest. It can also grow in containers or pots, but it may need more attention.
Given the name of this plant, Tree Peonies are indeed shrub sized, reaching an average 5 feet in height and width. Occasionally, one of these plants can reach 10 feet in height. It takes 10 years for this plant to reach maturity. One of these plants can live up to 100 years if it's properly cared for! Sometimes it can take up to 3 years for the plant to show any signs of blooms.
Only prune this plant to be shaped or if it has any dead branches on it.
Growing Zones and Weather Conditions
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-8 are where the Tree Peony lives best. Sometimes it can stand the temperatures of zone 3, but that's not guaranteed. Since they remain dormant during the winter months, they do well in cold winter climates as long as they have warm summers.
Putting mulch around the wintered root system will help keep it alive during the cold months. It's best for the plants if they're protected from harsh winds.
Type of Soil
Tree Peonies need well-draining, fertile soil that is slightly alkaline in nature. Placing bone meal in the soil twice a year (spring and fall) will help the Peony with supplemental nutrition. Soil with organic matter in its composition aids the Tree Peony.
Light, Fertilization, and Watering
It grows best in the full sun, but it will need shaded protection from the hot afternoon sun. If it receives too much sun, it can cause the beautiful blooms to wither and die.
Occasional fertilization with manure or compost will boost plant health and flower growth. Also, fertilizing it with a general-purpose mix, higher in phosphorus than potassium or nitrogen, will increase the overall health.
It's important to water these plants at the base of their root system, not from the top of the plant. They can be susceptible to root rot, so water accordingly. A deep soak is helpful, and the soil should dry about 4 inches deep before another watering. Once it has been established, it's very drought tolerant.
Growing Tree Peonies Step by Step
It's easiest to grow these peonies from root balls or seedling plants in containers. The plants will be dormant during the winter, so once the early spring arrives:
- Select a spot in the garden that will receive an adequate amount of sunlight (5-6 hours each day) and has well-draining, fertile soil. Make sure that it won't be competing with other plants that have large root systems.
- Dig a hole for the plant about 12 inches deep and wide then place the plant in it
- Water it well (but don't overwater) so it can begin growing its underground root system.
- It may take a few years for the plant to produce blooms, but it's well worth it!
Tree Peony Inspiration
Hana Kisoi Tree Peony
As you can tell from the photo, this variety of Tree Peony is very eye-catching. Incorporating this in your garden will add a beautiful contrast of deep green foliage to the soft pink paper-thin blooms.
Add a Pop of Color
With a variety of colors and patterns, the Tree Peony has a lot to offer for garden diversity.
Height and Width to Capture Attention
The sheer height and width of this plant will demand anyone's attention and impress them at the same time.
The large blooms found on Tree Peonies will enhance any garden. Use them as a centerpiece garden display like the example below.
Variety in Color and Shape
Sunshine yellow blooms will add cheeriness to your garden.
Patience Pays Off
This Tree Peony was protected from the cold by the layer of mulch over it. Mulch also helps to preserve its new growth in the spring and summer. It requires patience to enjoy the showy flowers of this plant.
Cheerful Abundant Bloom Centerpieces
Since Tree Peonies can produce up to 50 blooms in one growing season, they can provide enough blooms to create a beautiful centerpiece for your home. Having a diameter up to 10 inches, the flowers are sure to impress anyone that sees them. They'll brighten up any home.
Grow them in a Variety of Climates and Enjoy the Blooms
Since these peonies are so hardy, they can withstand cold climates then show off their beautiful blooms in the summer months like the following picture shows.
Garden Walkways and Edge Pieces
The vibrant green Tree Peony sits in the middle of the edging shrubs, making sure to add a pop of color during the spring and summer. The Peony Tree is perfect for placing beside or inside edging shrubs.
Enjoy the Flowers and Watching them Bloom
Even though peonies have wonderful flowers when they've reached their peak bloom, they're also intriguing to watch as they open up. Even when they're closed up, they look exceptional.
Use for the Edge of your Garden
Tree Peonies look gorgeous when you use them to edge your garden. This example offers a great suggestion for how to use the grandeur of these peonies to enhance your garden's appeal.
Beautiful for Color Against the House
This shrub will spruce up the side gardens around your house. Instead of planting a nonflowering shrub, try putting a Tree Peony in its place to add more texture and elegance.
Attract Pollinators to the Garden
Attracting pollinators to your garden will help the overall health and wellness of the plants residing in it.
Thrives in Open Spaces and Filtered Sun
Tree Peonies show off their utter splendor when they receive the necessary amount of sunshine and water. They look great in open spaces where one can see the magnificence of each flower bloom.
Help Set a Beautiful Space
Because of the giant size and delicacy of this peony, it really complements other flower blooms. It can help complete a flower arrangement and bring it all together.
Reminisce about their Origin with Parasols
In Japan, many gardeners will help protect their Tree Peonies from the hot afternoon sun by placing a Japanese parasol next to the plant. By adding a parasol to your garden, you can add a piece of the Tree Peony's origin and history.
Buy in a Container to Jumpstart Growth
Buying Tree Peonies in containers will make growing this plant easier than if you bought a seed packet and started growing it from that.
Where to Buy
The Tree Peony is a lovely choice for adding new life to your garden. Its large vibrant blooms and beautiful foliage will look great in your garden, so shop around for the color that would best fit your vision for your garden.
Tree Peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
This packet comes with 4 fresh, viable seeds in it as well as an instruction pamphlet regarding germination. The Paeonia suffruticosa has large, vibrant petals and dark green foliage.
Tree Peony Flower Bulb - Kamata-nishiki Flower
Nature Hills Nursery will ship one flower bulb ready for planting to you. Plant the flower bulbs 2-3 feet apart. It has purple, double petals that fade to a lighter shade toward the edge.
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Tree Peony - Paeonia suffruticosa Ornamental Shrub
This packet comes with 5 seeds ready to be planted. It will grow beautifully when planted as an ornamental shrub.