As a gardener, I have long been intrigued by collecting and planting various varieties of peony. The herbaceous peonies in my own landscape range in shades from bright white to deep, dark burgundy. Their size and long vase life make them an invaluable asset in the early season cut flower garden as well. The impressive flowers are always among the most popular blooms at local farmers markets and when given in donations.
Though the abundance of fragrant flowers lasts throughout spring, I cannot help but wish that their bloom period was longer. It was for this reason that I initially began exploring the notion of growing other types of peony. Tree peonies were among the first plants to gain my attention.
What Are Tree Peonies?
Tree peonies differ quite a bit from more common herbaceous peonies. Though they share a common name with herbaceous peonies, these unique garden specimens have a more shrub-like habit. This allows for growth, which is produced on strong, woody stems. Blooming in early summer, tree peonies are especially beloved by growers for their immense blooms, which often reach sizes of over 8 inches (20 cm.) across.
These boldly colored and patterned flowers are able to easily make a distinct visual impact in the landscape. Though hardiness will vary depending upon cultivar, most tree peonies will thrive in USDA zones 4 through 8. Much like their herbaceous relatives, this long-lived perennial is sure to create magnificent floral displays for decades.
Growing Tree Peonies in the Garden
Despite my great appreciation for tree peonies, I have not yet been able to grow them. Though my growing zone is adequate, finding an ideal planting site in my yard has been difficult. Most resources indicate that tree peonies grow best in locations which receive about four hours of sunlight each day and that have exceptional drainage. Heavy, waterlogged soil in my garden space is the primary concern which has prevented me from purchasing my own plants.
After browsing several local plant nurseries, it quickly became apparent that I would need to order a tree peony online, should I decide to finally try growing this magnificent plant. Their beauty, as well as the rarity of some varieties, contributes greatly to their often high price tag. For now, I will continue to dream of the day in which I finally decide to grow my first tree peony.