How To Develop Chinese language Tree Peonies: Bountiful Blooms Rising Chinese language Tree Peony Crops
Chinese Tree Peony Facts

Botanical name:

Paeonia suffruticosa

Height: 3-4 ft (1-1.2m)

Spread: 3-5 ft (1-1.5m)

Sun exposure:

Full sun, part shade

Soil: Neutral

Hardiness zones:

USDA Zones 4-9

When to plant: Fall

If you are new to growing Chinese tree peony plants in the garden, you’ll enjoy their attractive foliage and dramatic blooms. Much like the herbaceous peony species, Paeonia lactiflora, Chinese tree peonies are known for both their hardiness and longevity.

Learning more about Chinese tree peony versus peony lactiflora varieties can help you make better-informed decisions about which of these dazzling blooming perennials will be best for your particular space. In this growing guide, we will explore how to grow Chinese peonies, and how you can easily master peony care for these unique floral beauties.

Care for Chinese Tree Peonies

Every peony requires tender loving care, but Chinese tree peonies (aka Moutan peonies) have specific requirements against other peony types, especially when it comes to lighting, warmth, soil quality and watering. The following conditions are recommended for Chinese tree peony care:

  • Lighting Conditions: Though it is possible to grow tree peonies in full sun, it’s not recommended in regions where conditions are harsh. Aim for a spot that receives partial sun throughout the day, or four-six hours. Beds with dappled light are also an option, with plants thriving near mature trees or in other lightly shaded areas.
  • Temperature & Humidity: Tree peonies are adaptable in a wide range of temperatures. With excellent tolerance to cold, these plants can withstand sudden changes in spring weather with relative ease. Roots, stems, foliage and developing buds are only seldom damaged by cold. However, you can mulch peony beds in winter or otherwise protect plants, especially those in pots and containers.
  • Watering Needs: While tolerant to drought, tree peonies require supplemental water where conditions are dry. Water deeply at the root zone. This can be done weekly, but it will vary depending on your region’s rainfall. These peonies will not tolerate wet or poorly-drained soils, so exercise caution to avoid overwatering.
  • Fertilizing: Tree peonies respond well to fertilizer. Balanced, slow-release feeds can aid new plants as they become established, and help boost root development. Feed in early fall, just as the weather begins to cool. Liquid fertilizers are also useful and allow for rapid uptake in nutrients through the plant’s leaves. Foliar feeds can also be most effective in early spring before the peonies have started to bud.
  • Soil & Compost: Tree peonies thrive in rich, loam soils. They are considered heavy feeders, so good soil quality is crucial. Finished compost, worm castings and various other amendments, determined by a soil test, can be added to beds at planting.

(Image credit: Botany Vision / Alamy)

When and How to Plant Chinese Tree Peony

Though the needs of the plant can change between Chinese peony growth stages, how to grow Chinese peony plants differs very little from their herbaceous relatives. Tree peonies are most commonly planted from roots. Though more common types may be available at local garden centers, rare varieties often need to be ordered online. Fall planting will be key, as prolonged periods of cooler weather at this time will allow roots to begin to grow. Each peony should be situated so grafted sections of the plant are well below the soil, with the woody tree-like stems remaining upright.

Chinese Tree Peony Deadheading and Pruning

Like most flowering plants, Chinese tree peony care includes both deadheading and pruning. Deadheading, or the removal of faded flowers, helps to keep plants looking tidy as well as preventing the production of seed. This allows the peony to divert much-needed energy into other vital plant processes. To deadhead tree peonies, simply snip each stem directly below the base of the bloom.

Understanding the growth habit of tree peonies is vital to pruning them. Unlike their herbaceous counterparts, these species will not die back to the ground in fall. Instead, these plants lose their foliage, leaving woody stems throughout winter. Though it is possible to prune tree peonies to manage their size, be wary to avoid over-trimming. Do not remove more than approximately one-fourth of the entire length of each stem. That way, you can be sure of growing Chinese tree peony plants with real staying power.

pink tree peonies blossoming in garden border

(Image credit: Ellen McKnight / Shutterstock)

Problems, Pests and Diseases

Though generally carefree, Chinese tree peonies are prone to several problems. Most common among these are fungal diseases such as powdery mildew, botrytis and blight. Routinely monitor these trees for distinctive changes in foliage and the presence of other symptoms. This can help you to quickly diagnose them and devise a treatment plan. This is essential in preventing the spread of disease throughout your garden and reducing plant losses.

How to Propagate Chinese Tree Peony

Tree peonies are most frequently propagated in three ways: from seed, through division and by grafting. While plants grown from seed will not grow true to type, it allows the opportunity to diversify beds and create crosses. Germination time varies, with most seeds beginning to grow within several months to a year.

For anyone interested in growing Chinese tree peony plants from scratch, peony propagation through division should be done only with mature, own-root plants. Peonies are first lifted from the soil. After excess dirt has been removed from the roots, cut each section of the plant apart. New segments, complete with their root system, can then be replanted into the garden or potted into their own containers.

Grafting can also be used to successfully propagate tree peonies. In most cases, herbaceous peony roots are selected as rootstock. Tree peony scions are then inserted into the root, and sealed tightly. Prepared grafts are then placed into sand where they will continue to heal.

detail of white tree peony in full bloom

(Image credit: Maximilian Weinzierl / Alamy)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Grow Chinese Tree Peonies in Pots?

Tree peonies are not recommended for containers. This is due to both size and longevity. Some have found short-term success growing peonies in pots. However, using containers requires more care and attention than traditionally grown plants.

How Do You Winterize Chinese Tree Peonies?

Tree peonies need only little care in preparation for winter. Though the plant’s leaves will begin to drop with the arrival of cooler weather, woody stems should never be trimmed back to the ground.

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