How to plant tree peony?

Eight tree peonies to grow

Despite the name, tree peonies are actually small shrubs, rather than trees, producing gorgeous, goblet-shaped flowers in May and June.


Unlike herbaceous peonies, which die back each year, tree peonies are taller and retain a permanent framework all year round. Ideally plant your tree peonies in autumn in a partially to fully shaded spot, in moist, well-drained soil. Most soils are fine, apart from those that remain very wet in winter or are on the acidic side. Plant them slightly deeper than the soil level in their container when purchasing.

If you spot suckers appearing at the base of your tree peonies, cut these off as they’ll be growing from the rootstock and will differ in appearance to the rest of the plant.

Related content:

  • Peonies – Grow Guide
  • How to plant peonies
  • 10 beautiful peonies to grow

Discover some of the best tree peonies to grow, below.



This gorgeous cultivar has purple-pink blooms with delicate black markings at the base of the petals, helping to draw the eye to the striking yellow centres. It looks fabulous surrounded by a carpet of forget-me-nots (Myosotis) or Chinese forget-me-nots (Cynoglossum).

Height x spread: 120cm x 90cm.


‘Shimane Sedai’

‘Shimane Sedai’ has beautiful, rose-coloured flowers with petals that ruffle slightly at the edges. When young, the blooms are semi-double, but as this peony matures, the flowers become progressively larger and more double.

H x S: 120cm x 90cm.


‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’

This Japanese tree peony has blowsy peach-coloured flowers with frilly pink edges. Each flower has a warm yellow centre. Plants with purple flowers are the perfect match for this variety, so consider underplanting with dusky cranesbills (Geranium phaeum) and spring peas (Lathyrus vernus).

H x S: 120cm x 90cm.


Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

The spectacular cut foliage of this variety provides a fresh, green backdrop for the bright yellow blooms. It’ll reach a greater size than most other tree peonies, so plant it somewhere where it’ll have plenty of room to expand. Large pods holding glossy black seeds follow on from the flowers.

H x S: 3m x 2m.


‘Duchess of Kent’

‘Duchess of Kent’ is a vigorous, reliable variety with large, carmine-red, fully double blooms. Red stems and leaf stalks add to the interest, which adds interest when it’s not in flower. Flowers slightly later than most other tree peonies.

H x S: 120cm x 90cm.


‘Duchess of Marlborough’

This renowned variety has been around for decades, and is still one of the best-loved for its huge, pale-pink flowers. The semi-double flowers are yellow in the centre. ‘Duchess of Marlborough’ looks beautiful planted alongside classic shrub roses.

H x S: 120cm x 90cm.


‘Reine Elizabeth’

‘Reine Elizabeth’ is an old variety of tree peony, with fully double China pink flowers, with a hint of orange warmth. Like most tree peonies with huge flowers, those of ‘Reine Elizabeth’ will benefit from protection from strong winds by being grown in a sheltered spot.

H x S: 120cm x 90cm.




With vividly marked rose pink and hot pink petals, ‘Shimanishiki’ is one of the more striking tree peonies to grow and makes a fun cut flower. The blooms will vary in colour, with some displaying more of one or the other colour. H x S: 120cm x 90cm.

Feeding tree peonies

These hungry plants will benefit from the addition of a potash-rich fertiliser in autumn to boost flower production. Later on, in spring, you can apply an all-round granular fertiliser around the base the plant.

Peonies are beautiful, long-lived and easy to grow once established. We sell three distinctive types of peonies, herbaceous, intersectional and the tree peony.

The difference between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies lies in the way it produces its foliage. Herbaceous peonies produce leaves, which form handsome rounded mounds that die back in the autumn, while tree peonies have woody stems that remain during the winter.

Types of herbaceous peonies

In late May or early June herbaceous peonies produce long stems topped with fat buds that open into large, opulent flowers. These flowers come only in a limited range of colours. These are white, pink and red. Although there are a few yellow varieties, these are limited in number and usually quite expensive. However because there are so many shapes there is a wide choice of designs to select from.


This type of peony has lots of petals, which when fully open will form a dome that can be low, like a crown, shaped like a ball or a pompon. Because of their size they sometimes need staking.


This type of flower has two or three layers of petals that open out to reveal the handsome ring of stamens in the centre. Because the flowers are not so heavy they usually do not require staking.


These peonies always have large outer petals, known as guard petals that form a frame work for a cluster of long, ribbon-like petals, referred to as stamenoids. These varieties almost always require no staking.


This type of peony has just one, or sometimes two rows of petals. The stamens in the centre are always revealed. When the flowers first open the blooms usually close up at night, which means they last longer. This type of peony requires no staking.

Peonies in the Garden

Herbaceous peonies will grow in most soils, except ones that stay wet. They grow best in a rich, heavy soil (including clay), but will thrive just as well in a sandy soil once established. Although they prefer full sun, in warmer parts they are happy in partial shade.

Peonies can be grown in a border of their own, but most gardeners would prefer to include them among other plants. They look fabulous with perennials, and the leaves of many varieties turn the handsome colours of autumn as they begin to die back in late August and September. In the spring the new shoots, which remind me of asparagus, are most attractive, a feature that can be enhanced by planting spring bulbs such as crocuses around them. Later, once the flowers have gone, very often there are seed pods which can be extremely attractive. Most of the pods are empty of seeds.

For varieties with less upright flowers, this is the time to put in supports such as wire rings.

Spring has arrived in most of the continental United States and peonies throughout the land are starting to put out their new growth for the season. We are often asked how to distinguish between new tree peony shoots and advantageous herbaceous graft root suckers. We hope that the pictures below might help to elucidate the difference. A degree of horticultural eye is required, especially when growth is first emerging, so if you are unsure, wait until the new growth has progressed to a point where you can distinguished between the different leaf types of tree and herbaceous peonies before removing any growth.

At Cricket Hill Garden, about half of our tree peonies are propagated by root division while the other half are propagated by grafting onto herbaceous peony rootstock. Some grafted tree peonies, if not planted to a proper depth, are prone to have their herbaceous under-stock sprout, or in horticultural terms, sucker.

Herbaceous under-stock sprouting on a grafted tree peony. Note the distinctive ‘bullet’ shape of the new shoots. A new herbaceous peony shoot will always have fatter and fleshier bud than a new tree peony bud (shown in the next image). If you are unsure of what you are looking at, you can always email us a picture at [email protected] and we will do our best to help you ID the new shoots you are seeing around your tree peonies.

If the new growth around your tree peony looks like that in the above photo, you should remove it. See our past blog post, on how to do this. Before you chop out any new growth, be sure that what you are seeing is not just the tree peony sending up new stems from its own root system, as shown in the picture below.

Own-root tree peonies and grafted tree peonies which have been planted deeply enough will send up new tree peony growth from the root system as they mature. New tree peony growth can be distinguished from herbaceous root-stock suckering its narrower profile.

If you are unsure if the new shoots which you are seeing are tree or herbaceous peony shoots, its best to wait until the first leaves appear. Tree peony leaves will be dissected, while herbaceous peony leaves are more ovate.

Tree peony leaves are highly dissected and usually have three prongs.

Herbaceous peony leaves are ovate and are never dissected.

If you have any questions, about this or any other peony related topic, please email us at [email protected]

The Herbaceous and the Tree Peony Flower

If a flower were to be crowned the queen of the spring garden, the crown would surely go to the hardy and long-living peony flower. Peonies are incredibly easy to grow and bloom so reliably, that if they’re not yet your favorite spring flower, they will be soon. Depending on your geographic location and the specific peony you choose, you can enjoy this sensational blossom for up to six weeks every year. The peony flower is split into two groups: the herbaceous peonies and the tree peonies. The herbaceous peony is a perennial that grows to about three feet tall and die back to the earth each winter. The tree peony is a more slow growing woody stemmed shrub that can reach up to six feet at full maturity. Both the herbaceous and the tree peony can live for decades. Now that we’ve introduced to two types of peony flowers, lets dig a little deeper into the characteristics of each group.

Herbaceous Peony Flower:

The herbaceous peony flower is a full and bountiful early, mid and late-season bloomer, with the spring flowering lasting about two weeks in the spring. If you’re wanting your peony to flower midspring to summer, you chould choose peonies from each group type. Its important to note that different plants have different fragrant levels and are delightful options for bouquets. Now that we have covered a few of the different herbaceous peony flower characteristics, lets discuss the different varieties.

Below is a list of herbaceous peony types, a short description and a zone range which is the USDA’s plant hardiness zones. The zone locations tell gardeners which plants are most likely to thrice in their location, based on the annual minimum winter temperature.

‘Bowl of Cream’ (Zones 2–7) bears very large, double, pure-white flowers in midseason.

‘Butter Bowl’ (Zones 2 – 7) a midseason bloomer, bears Japanese-style flowers with ruffled yellow centers surrounded by pink petals.

‘Coral Supreme’ (Zones 2 – 8) one of Martha’s favorites for its large, globe-shaped, semidouble, salmon-coral flowers, is an early bloomer.

‘Golly’ (Zones 2 – 8) has unusual double flowers with soft-pink guard petals and a yellow center surrounding a tuft of pink petals in midseason.

‘Green Lotus’ (Zones 2 – 8) an early bloomer, bears large, distinctively fringed white blossoms streaked with lime-green and soft-pink highlights.

‘Karl Rosenfield’ (Zones 2 – 7) a free-flowering mid- to late-season bloomer, has large, globe-shaped, double, crimson blooms that are excellent for cutting, lasting about a week in a vase.

‘Sarah Bernhardt’ (Zones 2 – 8) bears globe-shaped, double flowers that fade from pale pink to blush on the outer petals and are occasionally flecked with carmine. The late-season flowers, which last about 5 days once cut, are ideal for bouquets.

Tree Peony Flower:

Tree peony flowers are truly four-season plants, tree peonies have aesthetically cut leaves that fall in autumn, exposing a barked stem and an appealing bare plant stalk in the winter. The multi-branched shrubs bear six to twelve inch wide blooms. The tree peony flowers a little earlier than the herbaceous peony and are appropriate for zones 4-8. Let’s cover the different types of tree peony flowers:

Bai Yu’ (Zones 4 – 8) a good choice for gardeners in warmer climates, has fragrant, double, white flowers that open midseason, revealing deep-yellow stamens.

‘Leda’ (Zones 4 – 8) bears fragrant semidouble deep-pink flowers with purple flares and gold stamens in midseason.

‘Marchioness’ (Zones 4 – 8) produces an abundance of fragrant apricot-blush flowers with raspberry flares at the base of each petal and gold stamens in midseason.

The peony flower is a magnificent specimen that surely deserves the title of queen of of the spring garden. If you’re looking for a large blooming fragrant maters piece, the peony flower is the flower for you!



Known for their intense fragrance, these tough perennials will return year after year. There are many different types to choose from with different plant growth habits and flower types. Even when they’re not in bloom, these plants have deep green and leathery foliage that stands up to the vigorous weather.

genus name
  • Paeonia
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
  • 1 to 3 feet,
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 2 to 3 feet
flower color
  • Red,
  • Orange,
  • White,
  • Pink,
  • Yellow
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Fragrance,
  • Cut Flowers
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8
  • Division,
  • Seed


Garden Plans For Peony

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Colorful Combinations

Peony flowers vary from simple six petal varieties to those with dramatic ruffled blooms. They are known for their beauty and numerous color options such as pastel shades of pink, yellow, orange, deep reds, and whites. The foliage of peonies can be quite beautiful, especially when they first emerge in spring with deep burgundies and greens. As the foliage ages, it becomes a rich leather green which provides a nice backdrop for peonies and other surrounding plants.

Peony Types

The most commonly grown type of peony is the herbaceous peony, or garden peony. This type does not form any woody plant material and all leaves are grown from the ground. These are the most fragrant of the peonies and often found in shades of pink, red, or white.

The second type is the tree peony. Tree peonies are less commonly grown due to the high cost of the plant. Tree peonies are slower growing than herbaceous peonies and form a woody trunk-like base. Because they grow some woody material, they will typically grow taller than the traditional peony.

From these two types of peonies (herbaceous and tree) come the intersectional peonies, or itoh peonies. Itoh peonies offer stunning variety of colors, bringing oranges and yellows to the herbaceous peony types; they also tend to be much larger than the herbaceous types.

Another lesser-known peony is the rock garden or fern leaf peony. These are much smaller than their cousins, and have finely dissected green leaves that give the plant a ferny texture. Flowers of this diminutive peony are much smaller and less exotic looking, but form beautiful pink or red cups of flowers.

Peony Care Must-Knows

As long as your peonies are happy, they will live for many years. When planting, follow the care instructions. Planting them more than 2 inches below the soil level will cause them to put out foliage but no flowers. Peonies will do best in well-drained soil. If soils are too heavy, they will benefit from some compost being added to the soil. This plant also dislikes having its roots disturbed and can protest by withholding blooms.

See how to divide peonies.

Peonies thrive in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Full sun ensures the plants put on good blooms and keep the foliage healthy. One common problem seen with peonies is their susceptibility to powdery mildew, which—while unsightly—will not kill the plants. The best way to prevent this is by planting in full sun, ensuring a good amount of air circulation around plants, and cleaning up any debris around the plants. Remove any part of the plant that you spot powdery mildew on. If push comes to shove and powdery mildew sticks around, spray with a fungicide to rid the plant of the mildew.

Learn how to make your peonies last longer.

More Varieties of Peony

‘America’ peony

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Paeonia ‘America’ blooms early. It has single, deep red flowers with a central boss of yellow stamens. Foliage is midgreen. Zones 3-8

‘Blaze’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Blaze’ offers single, 6-inch-wide scarlet-red blooms in early season. It grows 26 inches tall. It was released in 1973. Zones 3-8

‘Coral Charm’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’ blooms early with distinctly cupped semidouble coral pink flowers. The foliage is dark green. It was introduced in 1964. Zones 3-8

‘Border Charm’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Border Charm’ is a cross between an herbaceous and tree peony. It offers yellow flowers on strong stems and grows only 22 inches tall. It was released in 1984. Zones 3-8

‘Charm’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Charm’ bears dusky dark red Japanese-style flowers with yellow-tipped centers. It was bred in 1931 and is still popular today. This selection is late-season bloomer and grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3-8

‘Bowl of Beauty’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Bowl of Beauty’ blooms in midseason. It has 10-inch-wide, anemone-flowered or Japanese form, deep sugar pink cupped flowers. The center is crowded with narrow creamy white petaloids. It was introduced in 1949. Zones 3-8

‘Gay Paree’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Gay Paree’ is a distinct heirloom from 1933 that’s still popular. Its raspberry-red flowers have a lush, ivory-white center. The plant grows 34 inches tall. Zones 3-7

‘Green Halo’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Green Halo’ offers twisted white petals flushed with green. It grows 30 inches tall and was released in 1999. Zones 3-7

‘Karl Rosenfield’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Karl Rosenfield’ is still one of the most popular red peonies today and was first introduced in 1908. It offers double red blooms on a 32-inch-tall plant. Zones 3-7

‘Festiva Maxima’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima’ is an heirloom from the 1850s that’s still popular. It bears white flowers with tiny flecks of crimson and grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3-7

‘Krinkled White’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Krinkled White’ is an early bloomer. Its large single flowers are pure white, ruffled along the edges, with a central boss of bright yellow stamens. This heirloom variety was released in 1928. Zones 4-8

Fernleaf peony

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Paeonia tenuifolia has cupped rich red single 3-inch flowers in early to midspring. Its deep green foliage is fernlike, with many segments. Zones 3-8

‘Paula Fay’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Paula Fay’ offers semidouble reddish-pink blooms on a plant that grows 35 inches tall. It was introduced in 1968. Zones 3-7

‘Pillow Talk’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Pillow Talk’ is a midseason variety introduced in 1973 with fully double, soft pink flowers. Foliage is dark green. Zones 3-8

‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is an heirloom selection from 1906 with soft pink flowers and a lovely fragrance. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3-7

‘Westerner’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Westerner’ bears large pink flowers with yellow centers. It has strong stems and grows 34 inches tall. It was introduced in 1942. Zones 3-7

‘Sea Shell’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Sea Shell’ bears single pink flowers on long stems. It grows 37 inches tall and was introduced in 1937. Zones 3-7

‘Sweet Marjorie’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Sweet Marjorie’ bears distinct blooms with twisted and curled pink blooms. It grows 32 inches tall and was introduced in 1999. Zones 3-7

‘Sword Dance’ peony

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Paeonia ‘Sword Dance’ bears Japanese-type flowers with red petals and a large yellow center. It grows 3 feet tall and was introduced in 1933. Zones 3-7

Plant Peony With:

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With its loose, billowy panicles of tiny single or double pink or white flowers, baby’s breath provides a lightness and airiness to flower gardens. The creeping forms drape beautifully over rock walls. After bloom time, shear the plants to deadhead and for neatness. Plants prefer sweet (alkaline) soils with full sun and excellent drainage.

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Easy, always fresh, and always eye-catching, Shasta daisy is a longtime favorite. All cultivars produce white daisy flowers in various degrees of doubleness and size. The sturdy stems and long vase life make the flowers unbeatable for cutting. Shasta daisy thrives in well-drained, not overly rich soil. Taller sorts may need staking.

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Look at the delicate little flax plant with its masses of open, silky flowers, often in purest blue, and it’s hard to imagine that it can also produce tough linen fibers. Each bloom lasts but a day, but the plant stays in bloom for a while since it produces so many — not only in blue, but also clear yellow, depending on the variety.Flax must have a light, free-draining soil. Wet feet will kill it. Flax enjoys full sun but will tolerate light shade, especially in the Southern portion of the United States.

Growing Paeonia suffruticosa (Tree Peony)

Latin Name Pronunciation: pee-oh’nee-uh suf-root-ih-ko’suh

Tree Peonies are magnificent, long-lived woody shrubs that no garden should be without. Some varieties reach 4–5′ in height and plants are capable of bearing fragrant flowers to 10″ in diameter. Tree Peonies thrive in areas with cold winters and hot summers and do very well in the Northeast and Midwest, and are hardy from Zones 4 to 8. Gardeners in Zone 9 can enjoy Tree Peonies by forcing the shrubs into dormancy: trim off all foliage in November, leaving the woody stems, do not water or fertilize, and with luck the plant will form flower buds.

Tree Peonies are not plants for the impatient gardener, as they may take 3 years to become established and flower. Bear in mind, also, that the flowers of a new plant may not reach their potential for several seasons. That said, there is absolutely nothing like a Tree Peony in full bloom; such a sight is breathtaking.

Tree Peonies need some time to settle in before they bloom; it’s not unusual for a plant to wait until its third spring before it flowers. In addition, Tree Peonies are often slow to break dormancy the first spring after planting. Your plant may look dead while its neighbors are springing to life, but it will awaken soon enough.

Light/Watering: Light shade from hot afternoon sun is necessary to protect the flowers, and in China and Japan small parasols are set over the plants to block the sun. Plant Tree Peonies where they will be protected against drying winds in summer and winter. Tree Peonies are very drought tolerant once established. Do not overwater and do not plant near an automatic irrigation system. Wait until the soil has dried down to 4″ before watering deeply. Watering too much will kill the roots and is a common reason for failure.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Tree Peonies need a well-drained soil with a pH close to neutral or a bit above. If your soil is acidic, add a few handfuls of lime at planting time. Plant at the depth indicated by the green plastic ribbon wrapped around the main stem, and remove the ribbon after setting the plant at the right depth. If the ribbon has gone astray, plant the top of the graft union (which appears as a bulge on the main stem) about 4–6″ below the surface of the soil to encourage the scion to form its own roots. Topdress plants in spring with an inch of compost or aged manure. A foliar feeding with fish emulsion is appreciated during the growing season.

Pests/Diseases: On rare occasions you may notice a hole in the woody stem, caused by a boring insect. You may be able to kill the larva in the tunnel using a thin wire, or simply cut out the affected area. Like Herbaceous Peonies, Tree Peonies are occasionally afflicted with fungal diseases that cause black spots on leaves and wilting of shoots. Remove any diseased foliage as soon as noticed and be sure to clean up all fallen plant parts in the autumn. If fungal diseases become a problem, spray with a fungicide early in spring, repeating the treatments for several weeks. Be diligent with deadheading and do not allow fallen petals to remain caught in the plant or on the ground.

Companions: Hellebores , Alchemilla, Leucojum, Epimedium and Siberian Irises are all lovely in combination with Tree Peonies. If your plants tend toward legginess, underplant with spring-flowering bulbs.

Pruning: Never prune Tree Peonies back to the ground as is done with their herbaceous relatives. Prune out any damaged or broken stems after plants leaf out. Once your plant has some age and is growing vigorously, you may want to open up the center a bit to encourage flowering on the taller stems and increase air circulation. Tree Peonies are grafted onto Herbaceous Peony roots and occasionally a shoot from the rootstock will arise from the base of the plant. These should be removed immediately.

Dividing/Transplanting: Tree Peonies do not need to be divided, and with many plants this is impossible. Young plants may be moved when dormant; dig the plant keeping as much soil around the roots as possible.

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 arises 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.

How to Transplant Peonies

The peony has been a popular perennial in American gardens since the 1800’s. The peony is hardy, dependable, long-lived, and easy to grow. Gardeners value the peony for its large, colorful flowers in spring and attractive, season-long foliage.

Peonies can be left undisturbed in the garden for many years. Occasionally, however, it becomes necessary to move established plants. Peonies shaded by large trees or shrubs bloom poorly and should be moved to a sunny site. The redesign of a perennial bed or border may require moving the peonies. Large, old plants may become overcrowded and flower poorly. Large, poorly blooming peonies should be dug, divided, and transplanted to improve performance.

Moving established plants is a simple procedure. Cut the peony stems near ground level in September. Then carefully dig around and under each plant. Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. Promptly replant the peony in a sunny, well-drained site.

Division of large peony clumps requires a few additional steps. After digging up the plant, gently shake the clump to remove loose soil from the root system. Using a sharp knife, divide the clump into sections. Each section should have at least 3 to 5 buds (eyes) and a good portion of the root system.

Peonies perform best in full sun and well-drained soils. When selecting a planting site, choose an area that receives full sun. Avoid shady areas near large trees and shrubs. Poorly drained soils can often be improved by working in large amounts of compost or peat.

When planting peonies, dig a hole large enough for the entire root system. Place the peony plant in the hole so the buds are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. (Peonies often fail to bloom satisfactorily if the buds are more than 2 inches deep.) Fill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant as you backfill. Then water thoroughly.

In late fall (November), apply a 2 to 4 inch layer of mulch over the newly planted peonies. Straw is an excellent mulch. Mulching will prevent repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months that could damage the plants. Remove the mulch in early spring before growth begins.

Transplanted peonies will not bloom well the first spring. In fact, it’s advisable to remove any flower buds that form the first year to maximize plant growth. Transplanted peonies should bloom well by the third or fourth year.

This article originally appeared in the August 27, 1999 issue, p. 116.

How to Transplant a Peony Tree

peony red image by Lytse from

Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are considered the national flower of China and can reach heights of nearly 6 feet. A woody or deciduous shrub, tree peonies come in a variety of colors and do well in USDA zones 4 to 9. Typically, tree peonies can live for more than 100 years and do not like to be transplanted. However, with careful attention to detail, you can successfully transplant them. It is best to move a tree peony only in the fall and you can expect the tree to take two to three years to stabilize to its normal, healthy state.

Choose a location where your tree has at least 3 to 5 feet of room to grow into. It should also receive at least four to five hours of sunlight daily, adequate drainage and good soil. Test the soil’s pH level. Ideally, the soil should have a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0. If your soil is has a pH of less than 6.5, add lime and compost until you get the right pH. If your soil pH is higher the recommended levels, lower it by introducing an elemental sulfur material using 6 to10 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Repeat until you achieve a pH between 6.5 and 7.0.

Dig around the tree with a large garden fork at least 18 inches away from the tree trunk. Carefully lift the peony tree out of the earth with a shovel and wrap the root system with a tarp or place the tree in a large bucket while you are moving it to its new location. This can be a slow process because peony roots are tough.

Dig a hole large enough to encompass the entire root system in width and depth. Bury the tree until the soil reaches just below the crown of the tree. The crown of a tree is where the trunk and main branches begin. Depending on the size of your tree, 2 inches above the root system is a good rule of thumb.

Add soil and water to fill in the hole around the tree’s root system. Adding the water will get rid of air pockets that will damage the roots if left behind. After your tree is successfully planted, add a slow-release, low-nitrogen fertilizer following the manufacturer’s instructions.

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