Please take time to prepare your planting area. In return
you will receive a lifetime of enjoyment. In 10 years, most
plants will grow to 4'x4'. If planting a group of tree peonies,
allow at least 4 to 5 feet between them. Do not plant closer
than 8-10 feet from large trees, where tree roots will compete
with the peonies for nutrients and water. Choose a location
with 4-6 hours of direct sun, or dappled sun/shade all day.
Full sun will make the flowers fade rapidly. Full shade
will result in weak and very slow growth.
This is the most common misunderstanding. Tree peonies
do not have watering needs like roses or other perennials.
They are woody shrubs native to northern China, which receives
about 30 inches of rain per year. Once established, tree
peonies are drought tolerant plants. Excess water
will suffocate the roots and is the leading cause of plant
failure. Do not plant near auto-sprinkler systems that
keep the soils continuously moist. Do not water
until soil is dry below the surface and try not to wet leaves
when watering to prevent fungus. Be observant; soil can
dry out on top and still be moist 6-12” below the
surface. When you feel the soil is dry below the first 4-6”and
leaves may droop slightly, water the roots deeply. Climates
of hot summer temperatures with little or no rain at all
will require more attention to watering then those areas
that get some rainfall. Peonies in root control bags will
require more watering attention than tree peonies planted
in the ground. NOTE: Droopy leaves in the
first warm days of spring are caused by an imbalance of
the root system and leaf production. If soil has moisture,
do not water. This imbalance that will self correct as the
plant settles into the growing season. You know this is
the cause of the limp leaves if the plant recovers in the
evening or early the next morning.
Failure to follow our directions on watering will give unsatisfactory
results. We cannot be responsible for plants that
die due to excess water.
In areas of damp, cold spring weather, using a copper spray
will prevent fungus that discolors the leaves with black
spots later in the season. Use Basicop
sold in most garden centers, or Soap Shield
from Garden's Alive ( tel. 812-537-8650).
Mix according to package directions. Use in early spring
when the buds start to open, 3 treatments, 10 days apart.
This will prevent spotting that shows up later in the season.
If you do see fungus in late spring or summer, remove heavily
damaged leaves. Late season spraying seems to have no effect
on peonies. Spraying must be used preventatively. This fungus
rarely kills the plant, but will slow its growth. If you
have a problem one year, remember to treat for it early
the following season.
For optimum growth and vigor, fertilize every 2-3 weeks
with 1 oz. to one gallon of fish/seaweed fertilizer such
as Neptune’s Harvest. If it is raining frequently,
mix 1 oz. fish/seaweed to 1 cup of water and sprinkle at
the drip line of the plant, letting the rain pull the food
to the roots.
The hot weather is a time of dormancy, with little or no
leaf growth. Plants are storing energy in the roots and
will make buds for next season in late summer. Continue
to fertilize plants until about one month before the frost
date in your area. Water plant when it seems dry 4-6 inches
below the surface of the soil; water deeply, allowing plant
to dry out again before the next watering.
About the time of the first frost, remove the leaves to
prevent any over-wintering of fungus. Do not cut the woody
stems; flowers bloom on old wood. Check for borer at this
time. You will sometimes find a hole drilled into the woody
stem on older plants. The pest known as the "Rose Borer"
will sometimes drill into the pith of larger stems. Cut
off affected area or take a thin wire and poke into the
hole, killing the larvae. Seal hole with white glue or clay.
After fall cleanup, we like to add a little
compost and a cup of lime to our acidic New England soil.
Lightly dig in around the drip line . Tree peonies in China
grow in soil with a pH of 7.0 or higher, so we feel it is
important to maintain pH at this level for optimum growing
Mulch plant well in zone
4 and colder parts of zone 5. Warmer climates seem to be
fine with little or no mulch once plants are established.
Here in our zone 5b climate, we use just a couple of inches
of mulch on established plants.
Pruning: Oncer your tree
peony is growing for several years and has many branches,
it may be necessary to cut out extra growth in the interior
of the shrub. Select 6 to 10 of the strongest branches as
the major stems of the plant. This will allow the peony
to concentrate its strength on flowering in its main branches,
rather than excessive leaf growth. It will also eliminate
chances for fungus to grow, allowing more light and air
to circulate in the plant. If you prefer to see the wood
of the tree peony at the base, you can prune out leaf buds
low to the ground. This is a Chinese style of shaping. The
natural habit for most Chinese tree peonies is a very dense,
spreading, rounded form, though some varieties, like White
Screen Reflects a Blue Jewel, Phoenix White and Lotus that
Shines in the Sun are naturally tall and woody at their
Remember the Chinese proverb, "The
gardener's footsteps are the garden's best fertilizer".