A tree peony is any member of the Paeonia family that has a woody stem. The species, Paeonia suffruticosa, is probably the most well-known. Paeonia suffruticosa is also called the moutan peony. Most tree peonies are low-maintenance woodland plants that grow well in the Pacific Northwest. Their blossoms, though fleeting, are spectacular.
Tree peonies should be planted in a location with sun or part-sun. Flowers will hold their colour better and last longer if you choose a site with part-sun. Soil should be moist, not boggy, and fertile. Tree peonies will grow to about 1 to 1 ½ meters high and wide. This makes them ideal for foundation planting. Pruning is not necessary except to remove dead or damaged branches. Try not to move them when planted, as this may kill them or stunt their growth.
The blossoms of tree peonies are their main attraction. These blossoms are truly magnificent. They can often reach 30 cm in diameter (think almost the size of a Frisbee!) Below is my hand in front of a neighbour’s tree peony blossom. Blossoms come in an amazing variety of colours and shades: pinks, purples, reds, yellows, whites. The center blotches can also be different colours. There is also a great choice of blossom type: single, anemone, double, semi-double, and bomb-double. The petals are delicate like tissue and soft to touch.
Tree peonies can be fairly expensive, but note that they can live up to 100 years. This makes them a good investment if you don’t plan on moving for a while. Perhaps your great grandchildren will enjoy a tree peony that you planted!