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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Update on all the peonies, itoh, tree and herbaceous species

One of the things I learned this year about peonies is that there is an intersectional peony which is a cross between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony which grows more vigorous that both. I find that these guys have woody stems, but also produce new eyes as prolifically as herbaceous peonies.

ITOH Peony

Here's my newest acquisition, a Julia Rose itoh peony which didn't have much root mass, but as long as it gets established in its pot, it should grow well. I planted it as deep as I could to encourage more eyes to form.

It is a bit wilted so I coated all the roots with juicy roots cloning gel and placed it in a wall o water to ensure that the temperatures don't vary as much. I plan on watering it with rooting hormone tomorrow.

Here's the bartzella itoh peony which was bought a couple months ago, and it has hardened up nicely, getting a little bit of leaf burn, but overall the leaves have grown, and there is plenty of photosynthesis going on.

My keiko pink itoh peony was purchased at the local gardening center in a 5 gallon monrovia pot, and this guy is huge so I might end up dividing it this fall. I currently have it in a 15 gallon pot to grow out a little bit.

Tree Peony

Kinshi Yellow: This one already made a small flower, and I cut it off soon after it wilted to prevent energy from going to the seeds because when they are still small plants, they need to store all of their energy for the growth of the following year. This one is already on its own roots, and it's easy to tell as I can feel woody roots right below the surface when I aerate the soil.

Here's the maxima cornu lutea hybrid tree peony. This was a 4 year old plant also on its own roots and might have enough energy to flower this year, but it is sprouting late because it was kept in a cooler before I bought it. I also deep planted this one in the deep monrovia 5 gallon pot to ensure that plenty of buds, and more roots form on the underground branches.

The following 5 tree peonies were planted as grafted plants last fall and 4 out of 5 of them are doing very well

Phoenix white

Marchioness: Not quite done leafing out since it started budding a bit late

Phoenix Hairpin: This one was going strong like the others, but it ended up wilting either due to the late freezes or fungal disease. I had to cut off all the dead section and a few leaves grew back with foliage equivalent to a 2nd year tree peony seedling, but I'm hoping it recovers.It's under full sun so it should be getting plenty of energy to recover for next year.
Here's the phoenix hairpin when it tried to make foliage the first time showing it wilting.

Black dragon holds a splendid flower


Here's my best tree peony from last year's batch, now over 6 inches tall, and the stem is really fattening up.

Here's the best tree peony from this year making its 3rd leaf which is pretty good for a 1st year seedling.

Here are some tree peony seedlings 3 weeks ago.

I have since taken the ones in between and potted up about 10 more of these guys just to give them more space. I'm not sure if they grow better in pots or in the garden bed, but I want them to have their own growing space. I'm not supposed to transplant them at this time of the year, but the leaves are fully grown, and I have plenty of materials to cut the transplant shock such as azomite, rooting hormone, and voodoo juice.

They do look a bit darker, hardened off, and leaves have gotten slightly bigger.

Here's all of them in pots. I make sure these guys have all the growing space they need because these guys are awesome.

Herbaceous Peony

These guys are much more common, and I personally believe them to be the least desirable since they attract ants, flop over when they bloom, are very prone to botrytis or other fungal diseases and their foliage doesn't look as pretty in my perspective. The only thing I like about them is that they grow pretty reliably in full shade, or anywhere, and their tuberous roots can be used as graft roots.

Here's a couple of them starting to bloom. These are tied up so they aren't falling under their own weight.

These are in a location with cooler soil so they are quite a bit behind in development.


  1. I have a few peonies coming via mail. Do you think it's safe for me to plant them on 2 gallon pots? Do you think they would be safe there orr winter? I am in zone 5a.

    1. I'm a zone warmer than you, but I think it is safe to put them into 2 gallon pots as long as you bury those pots into the soil for the winter, and cover it over with a tarp or mulch. I doubt you can leave the pots out in the cold over the winter without any type of protection, but sinking the pots into the ground should provide enough insulation especially if you get lots of snow.

  2. Hi Steve, I love peonies! I have an extremely old peony tree start, it's parent was maybe 100 years old and family just keeps passing parts of it down.
    I decided to buy a couple seeds but I'm not sure what to do. I live in zone 5 and my start loves it here, not sure about the seeds though. Do you have any advice for starting them? I have full sun, part, and full shade available. I also have some wonderfully rich raised bed space I can use. It will soon be in the 90's here for the next couple months.

    1. If you have seeds, I would suggest planting them in a raised bed where they get good drainage and less of a chance of getting attacked by pill bugs and slugs. A partially buried fabric pot would work too as it's important to keep out the predators. It takes 1-3 seasons to germinate the seeds depending on their freshness so you would also want to mark them off. Partial shade may work good because you probably want to keep moisture levels consistent. A good medium with lots of compost will also be beneficial.

      If you have a large tree peony, you can supercrop the branchs by injuring part of the new growth, and causing them to produce calluses or starch concentrations, then take cuttings to make more plants. I would then placing them into a bucket, buds facing down, fill that with compost/ potting soil, water it a bit, not too much, and then burying it underground to keep temperatures between 25F-50F by around early December, then taking them out to get them potted up with good soil by about April. Rooting powder may help, but I've succeeded in peony branch cuttings without it.