How to Cultivate a Peony Tree
Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are hardy, easy-care, bushy plants that grow between 4 and 6 feet tall. Like their smaller, more familiar sisters the common herbaceous peony, tree peonies produce delicate, large blooms of red, white, pink, purple or yellow. Unlike herbaceous peonies, however, tree peonies do not die back in the winter. Tree peonies are hardy through USDA hardiness zone 3.
Things You’ll Need
- Tree peony
- Tiller or spade
- Organic matter such as aged manure or peat moss
- Organic Mulch
- Complete fertilizer
- Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun each day. Although tree peonies will grow in partial shade, they may not flower or will produce very few flowers. They may also be more prone to disease unless planted in a sunny location.
- Purchase tree peonies in local nurseries in the autumn. Some tree peonies bloom early (around May), while others bloom mid-season (around early June) or late-season (around late June), so read the nursery label carefully.
- Till the soil and add rich organic matter such as well-aged manure peat moss.
- Dig a hole twice as big as the tree’s root ball.
- Place the tree in the hole so the grafted part of the trunk (the "eye") will be under the soil by about 8 to 12 inches; this encourages stronger root growth and, according to Reilly’s Country Gardens, will keep the trees from reverting back to their natural herbaceous form.
- Water the tree well. If the soil level drops around the tree, add more soil, tapping it down with your feet.
- Mulch around the tree with shredded bark, straw, wood chips or a similar organic mulch in a layer about 3 inches deep.
- In the spring, the University of Vermont Extension recommends, fertilize tree peonies with a complete fertilizer (such as a synthetic 10-10-10 fertilizer or an organic 5-5-5 one). Use about 3 to 4 pounds for every 100 square feet. The tree peony should need fertilizing only once a year.
- To avoid disease and pests, remove decaying blooms and leaves during the growing season. Thoroughly rake away any dead foliage or flowers in the fall.
Tips & Warnings
Old wives tales say you need ants for peonies to thrive, but this is a myth. However, you can expect to see more ants in your yard if you have peonies because they are attracted to the sap in peony flowers. If you want to cut off peony blooms and bring them indoors for a bouquet, it’s smart to quickly dunk the blooms in water before doing so.