The biggest bloom of June

Published On: June 7th, 20210

Tree peonies are the aristocrats of the garden.  I’ve always felt that they’re the pinnacle of gardening and the plant that many gardeners try to grow, and many ultimately fail.  For those that don’t know tree peonies, they’re worthy of attention.  For those that know of them, well, you know what I’m talking about.

Natives to Asia, these plants are similar in flower to herbaceous peonies, in that they have multi-lobed leaves that drop in the fall (in the case of herbaceous plants, they need to be cut back) and are a deep, rich green color.  There are two main differences between herbaceous and tree peonies are that tree peonies produce, albeit slowly, a woody stem and they have huge, usually single (not double) flowers.

⭐ TIP

Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies should NEVER be pruned back in the fall, or any other time of the year.  Because of the very slow growth rate, you could do major damage to the plant by pruning.

Tree peonies are woody-stemmed plants that grow to 3-7’ in height and spread and produce, depending on the cultivar, flowers that are ‘dinner plate’ in size.  They’re slow growers, typically growing only 1-4” in a year and can live for ‘centuries’, according to several growers.  They’re hardy to zone 4, typically and can easily survive the winters on the Cape.  They prefer full-sun but can tolerate partial shade.

But, having said that, and having grown these stately plants, I can say they are slow to get started and can be challenging without the proper sun.  They really need full-sun in our latitude, although farther south they prefer dappled shade in the afternoon.  They don’t really like our acidic soils so you may need to adjust the pH with some lime, ideally to between pH 7 and 8.  Definitely don’t plant them under trees, especially maples as they (the peonies) don’t like root competition.  Tree peonies also have relatively high needs for iron and phosphorus.  An annual feeding with iron sulphate and bone meal helps as does regular feeding with something like 5-10-5.  They can be susceptible to fungal diseases, as can herbaceous peonies.

They can be planted in the spring or in the fall but if planting now, ensure they get adequate water through the summer.  Expect them to take several years to get established, even up to three years to flower.  Tree peonies are slow to establish but are exceptionally long-lived and can easily live to 100 years, or more.

Care is not really any different than herbaceous peonies.  They like well-drained soils, full-sun to part shade, and well-drained soils but adequate water to survive our sandy soils.  Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies should NEVER be pruned back in the fall, or any other time of the year.  Because of the very slow growth rate, you could do major damage to the plant by pruning.

  • tree peony

Tree Peonies

The biggest bloom of June Tree peonies are the aristocrats of the garden.  I’ve always felt that they’re the pinnacle of gardening and the plant that many gardeners try to grow, and [...]

Wampanoag Wetu Exhibit Video Overview

On Exhibit April - October 2021 This year, we invite you to connect with the history of our region. For more than 12,000 years this region has been inhabited by members of the [...]

  • White Rhododendron

Hybridizing Rhododendrons

100 Years of Rhododendrons After Dexter died in 1943, many of his hybrid rhododendrons were scattered away from Sandwich to different places. While Dexter himself had given away thousands of seedlings during [...]

  • Rhododendron

Dexter Centennial

100 Years of Rhododendrons This year, 2021, marks the centennial of the year that Charles Owen Dexter acquired Shawme Farm. It is because Dexter bought himself a country retreat a hundred years [...]

Share

Recent garden news and events

  • White Rhododendron

Hybridizing Rhododendrons

100 Years of Rhododendrons After Dexter died in 1943, many of his hybrid rhododendrons were scattered away from Sandwich to different places. While Dexter himself had given away thousands of seedlings during [...]

  • Rhododendron

Dexter Centennial

100 Years of Rhododendrons This year, 2021, marks the centennial of the year that Charles Owen Dexter acquired Shawme Farm. It is because Dexter bought himself a country retreat a hundred years [...]

  • News & Blog - witch-hazel

Witch Hazel For The Winter Garden

Down To Earth by Les Lutz The days are getting longer and there are already signs of life in the garden. One bright spot in the garden here at Heritage Museums & Gardens [...]

  • American Elderberry

American Elderberry

Our beautiful elderberry in the herb garden. Sambucus canadensis or American Elderberry is a shrub that can grow to 12 feet, flowering in the summer and producing an abundance of fruits in early fall. [...]

Load More Posts