We are often asked about tree peony care for UK gardens – what is the best aspect? When is the best time to plant tree peonies and how to look after them? Below we share our knowledge and experience of caring for these stunning plants.
Tree Peony Care UK – When to Plant
Autumn is the key time for planting new trees and shrubs in your garden. The soil is moist, making it easy to dig. It is also warm below the surface and will give your plants the best possible start. The weather in autumn tends to be more consistent than other times of year – wet and gradually turning cold, which is ideal for plants going into dormancy over winter.
If planted in autumn it means by the following spring your plants will already have put down a root system and have established themselves before the more stressful changeable hot/cold/dry weather conditions in early summer. Soon enough the days will be getting shorter and pumpkins will be in the shops and your garden will go through a transition phase along with the season.
Tree Peonies are a classic example of a plant best planted in autumn. Plants planted in autumn gradually establish and settle their roots before the ground freezes solid generally in late December/January.
The Tree Peony (despite its name) is not actually a tree but a deciduous shrub originating from China where it is known as Moutan. Distinct from the more common herbaceous peony that dies back in winter, the Tree Peony is a larger version that retains its elegant woody stem or bark throughout the winter.
Tree Peonies may look delicate but they are surprisingly hardy and will keep blooming for 50 to 80 years. These mighty plants have a remarkable history; first grown 2,000 years ago in China and exposed to harsh extremes of temperature, they are surprisingly hardy shrubs.
Tree Peony Care UK – Planting Guidelines:
Follow our simple guidelines when planting your Tree Peony and you will be rewarded with a long-standing shrub that will add a glamorous flourish to your garden!
The Tree Peony Temperament – Notoriously not liking to be moved around much, get your tree peonies settled in & acclimatised before the winter frosts and cold. As Tree Peonies get their nutrition from the roots, planting in the autumn gives the Tree Peony enough time to grow its roots before the ground freezes. This will help encourage new growth in the spring.
Tree peonies are long lived, hardy plants with spectacular spring blooms but are slow growing until well established. Tree Peonies will grow in full sun or partial shade.
When planting your tree peony, make sure to give it plenty of space and don’t plant it too close to other plants and don’t move it once it’s planted. Tree Peonies become quite large (retaining its stem throughout the winter) some up to 2 metres. You must however give it time to get established once you plant it.
Location, location, location – Tree Peonies do best in full sun to partial shade in a well-drained sheltered location. Soil must be deep and loose. Once planted, mulching of the soil is recommended to keep up moisture levels and prevent the soil from drying out.
In our own garden, we grow Tree Peonies in rich /fertile soil beneath Japanese Acers. Allow enough space for the air to circulate around the Tree Peony without it being too exposed and battered by strong prevailing winds.
Primping and preening – Tree Peonies are pretty low-maintenance and require minimal pruning. You can remove flowered shoots by cutting back just above the new growth in summer or in the autumn if seeds are desired. Removing old stems down to their base in the autumn after leaf-fall will encourage bushier growth. Feed the peonies in early autumn and again in late Spring to encourage new flowers.
From the double-flowering, two-tone Dao Jin Tree Peony to the luminous yellow Tree Peony Hai Huang, you are guaranteed to find the right colour match for your garden.
For further autumn garden tips take a look at Autumn Planting.