How to Grow Tree Peonies - Paeonia suffruticosa

Tree Peony, Paeonia suffruticosa Shimane Chojuraku

Paeonia suffruticosa is the name used for what we commonly called the Tree Peony. They are hybrids and come in a dazzling number of flower colours. You will see some sold as Chinese Tree Peonies, and these are the ones hybridised in China.

The tree peony is so named because it has a woody stem, it forms a small deciduous shrub and the structure remains year round. The flowers differ, perhaps best described as larger and flatter.

The foliage is not as glossy as other peonies, however, more flowers and more colourful ones at that make up for any shortcomings.

They form the buds for next years flowers on these above ground stems and pruning is limited to essential shaping only, however as they are slow growers and keep a small shape this is not a problem.

The bark of these stems is used in Chinese medicine. They have been grown in Japan after introduction from China since the eighth century however they took another 1000 years to get to europe.

The name Moutan peony comes from the Chinese, Mu Dan Pi, where the root bark is used in traditional medicine.

Foliage is green and ferny,very attractive from spring right through summer. However it is the flowers that these plants are grown for. Large colourful and like silk. some with fragrance others without.


Varieties and cultivars

Well known cultivars include

  • P. x suffruticosa var. 'Alice Harding'
  • 'Souvenir de Ducher'
  • Mme Louis Henry'
  • 'Souvenir de Maxime Cornu'
  • Victor and Emile Lemoine
  • 'Glory of Shanghai'
  • 'Godaiishu'
  • 'Kaoh'
  • 'Kinkaku'
  • 'Kinkoh'

So we have Japanese, French, Chinese and English names, some a reflection on where they were bred, others just renamed.

Pruning Tree Peonies

Easy to prune and best done in late winter tree peonies are pruned in two stages.

  • Step One : prune away any dead wood or stems. These will include some that high on the plant that need to be pruned back to live wood. You will also find some stems that have died right back to the ground, these need to be cut to ground level.
  • Step Two : look closely at the remaining stems and check for dead buds near the tips of the stems. You need to prune back to a live bud.

Tree peonies are readily available for sale and are very popular in the following states: Washington, Wisconsin, Oregon, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and District of Columbia.

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