There are two distinct forms of plants in the genus, Paeonia. The most common type are the herbaceous peonies which die back to the ground after heavy frost in the fall. Tree peonies are a woody shrub that keeps its stems through the winter.

Both types of peony are known for their large, brightly colored flowers which, in some cultivars, can be very large. Until recent decades, double flowering types were most common but the single flowering peonies are becoming more popular.

Tree peonies tend to be expensive because they are slow growing plants and it takes a long time to develop. They are broken into 3 groups:

  1. Japanese - considered the most showy, they have broad, crinkled foliage.

  2. Chinese or European - have large double blooms similar to the types found on many herbaceous peonies.

  3. Lutea - the word lutea means yellow in Latin and this type of peony bears very large yellow flowers.

This page covers only tree peonies while herbaceous peonies are discussed on their own page.

Since these are actually woody shrubs, you should choose a site that will suit the plant for many years to come like any other shrub.

This is another of those plants that are a bit touchy about their site requirements. They need to be sheltered from winter winds. Although they need a certain amount of sun to produce flower buds, they do better in the shade where they are protected from harsh late summer sun and heat.

Many consider the fall after Labor Day to be the best time to plant tree peonies. However, many are successfully planted in the spring.

As with all woody plants, they should be planted only as deep as the root ball is high. In other words, if the ball is 12 inches high, dig a hole 12 inches deep.

As usual, you should deadhead tree peony flowers as soon as they begin to shatter and fall apart. Types with huge flowers may need to have the flower stalk staked while still in bud to prevent the flowers from drooping to the ground or actually breaking the branch due to the weight of the bloom.

None serious.

No additional protection is needed as long as the plant is located in a wind shelter position.

Tree peonies are generally grafted plants. The top, the scion, is noted for its beauty while the rootstock is hardier than that of the scion's own roots.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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