Grow & Care for Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Written by Iris

Oct 22 2021

Grow & Care for Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)
Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), a long-lived deciduous woody shrub. Although the growth rate is somewhat slow, a mature peony can have more than 50 flowers of 8-10 inches and will bloom for about two weeks. Once established, peonies are deer-resistant and fairly drought-tolerant. The Tree Peony is very suitable to grow in home garden. Here is the guide for how to grow and care for Tree Peony.

Tree Peony Quick Info

Botanical/Scientific Name Paeonia suffruticosa
Common Name Tree peony
Varieties P. suffruticosa 'Red'
P. suffruticosa 'Kinkaku'
P. suffruticosa 'Kinshi'
P. suffruticosa 'Qing Xiang Bai'
Plant Height 3 to 5 feet tall
Plant Width 3 to 4 feet wide
Flower White, red, pink, purple, yellow
Bloom Time Spring
Uses Indoor plant, potted plant with high ornamental value
Toxic safe to cats and dogs

Where to Grow Tree Penoy

Grow Tree Peonies in a sunny or lightly-shaded position. Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are very hardy, but the foliage and flower buds can be damaged by late frosts so avoid frost pockets. Choose a sheltered position to prevent damage to flowers and foliage by strong winds. Tree peonies prefer neutral, humus–rich, well-drained soils, but they will tolerate slightly acid or slightly alkaline soils. It's possible to improve most soils enough by digging in organic matter, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure, but those which are very acidic or alkaline can remain unsuitable.

When to Grow Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) are best planted in autumn, but winter or early spring planting is also suitable. Avoid growing in late spring and in summer as Tree Peony plants will not grow well in hot, dry conditions.

How to Propagate Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Grow Tree Peony from Seeds

Species such as Paeonia delavayi can be grown from seed as can hybrids, but the latter will not breed true. You might get some interesting new hybrids but, in truth, they are often not as good as their named variety (cultivar) parent. It can still be interesting to try growing Tree Peony from seed, however, and occasionally you will see a self-sown seedling that you might like to grow on.
Collect the ripe seed once the seed pods begin to split in late summer and autumn. The viable seed is black. The red seed will not have been fertilized and will not germinate so can be discarded
Soon after collecting the seed, sow the seed 2.5cm (1in) deep in containers filled with John Innes
Seed compost is a free draining compost formulated for germinating seeds. It often contains a mix of fine materials including sterilized loam, coir, coarse sand, grit or perlite. It contains a low level of nutrients (High levels
could damage seedlings).
  • seed compost
Cover the compost with a light covering of grit and place in a Cold frame are glaze box-like structures made from brick or wood with a  hinged or removable, glazed, sloping lid. Useful to protect Tree Peony from cold weather over winter or acclimatize (harden off) young Tree Peony in spring and provide extra warmth for tender crops in summer.
  • Mulch news
Select a cold frame or a sheltered spot outdoors, such as at the base of a house wall
Make sure that the compost does not dry out in summer and protect from rodents
Peony seeds need to be exposed to two chilling periods with a warm spell between them. The seeds are doubly dormant; this means the root emerges the next spring after the first chilling period (winter), but the stem and leaves only appear after the second winter
  • A seedling is a young Tree Peony grown from seed.
Seedlings can take up to five years to reach flowering size

Tree Peony Propagation with Stem Cuttings

Layering is relatively straightforward if a flexible stem can be bent over. It usually takes two to three years before the stem will produce a sufficient independent root system to be separated from the parent Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa).
Most tree peonies are commercially propagated by grafting, but this is not a technique commonly used by home gardeners as it takes quite a bit of practice to get good success rates.
Cuttings generally root poorly so are not a great option.

How to Care for Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Tree Peony Light Requirements

Grow tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) in full sun to dappled shade. The flowers may suffer in the hot summer sun; providing some shade helps.

Tree Peony Soil Care

These Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) like to grow in a ground that is well-drained, with a soil pH that is neutral or slightly alkaline. They will thrive in loamy soil fortified with compost.

Tree Peony Watering

Water Tree Peony regularly in dry spells during the first year to aid establishment, especially if planted in spring or later in the season. Established tree peonies are deep-rooted and after the first year should not need routine watering.

Tree Peony Temperature & Humidity Care

Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) have chilling requirements, so they grow best in regions that experience cold temperatures during the winter. The further south you go in their range, the more sense it may make to grow them in dappled shade. For fall care, mulch to provide additional winter protection if you live in an area where the Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) plants are only borderline-hardy.

Tree Peony Fertilizer Care

Adding a layer of compost or manure to the soil in spring will give the shrub a boost of nutrition when growing Tree Peonies. Many gardeners also like to feed their tree peonies with a foliar spray of fish emulsion later in the season.

Tree Peony Pruning

Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) require minimal pruning. Just remove flowered shoots, cutting them off just above the new growth on the stem in summer; or in the autumn after the seeds are collected if this is desired. Remove any dead shoots in late winter, cutting back to a healthy bud. Stems may become leggy over many years. Cut them back by a third in the autumn after leaf-fall to encourage bushier growth. Tree peonies such as Paeonia delavayi f. lutea and Paeonia delavayi tend to produce more. Vigorous is healthy, fast-growing plant stems, especially when young growth is produced. Vigorous, upright stems. Removal of a proportion of the oldest stems at ground level in autumn helps to control the size once the Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) plants become established.

Tree Peony Care - 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 Tree Peony 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 Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) or on the ground.
 Tree peony

Tree Peony Varieties (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Red': Bears a gorgeous pink flower (not red); blooms relatively early in spring
Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kinkaku': Bicolored flowers of pale yellow with pink edges; blooms a few weeks later than Paeonia suffruticosa 'Red'
Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kinshi': Also called the "Golden Bird," because it bears huge flowers in a golden-yellow color
P. suffruticosa 'Qing Xiang Bai': Produces single blooms (most tree peonies have double blooms)
 Tree peony

Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) FAQ

How come my Tree peonies don't bloom?

Failure to bloom is usually caused by two things: improper planting and/or insufficient light. When growing Tree Peonies, make sure to plant the eyes (the point at which new growth emerges) no more than two inches deep. Also make sure your Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) plants get plenty of sun — 6 or more hours a day. If they're planted in a shady site, they will not flower well — if at all.
Also note that newly planted peonies usually don't flower the first year, which is spent developing a good root system and foliage. By the second spring after planting, you should see your first blooms.

Read More: Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) profile