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Sunday, June 10, 2012

1 year old tree peonies have arrived

2 1/2 weeks ago on May 24th, I have received my order of 42 (1 year old) grafted Japanese tree peonies. I decided to start them all in 2-5 gallon pots depending on their size so I can get them well established on their own root systems before getting them in the ground.

Here's the 1st out of 2 boxes that came on May 24th.

I was so excited to open it, and I found a whole bunch of individual plants with their roots surrounded with wood shavings, and wrapped with plastic & rubber bands.

Unfortunately between both boxes that arrived, 13 out of the 42 came DOA, but I was luckily able to get those replaced. When it looks like the scion has broken off, the scion is dried up with no buds, the whole thing appears moldy, or it has dried up, then they are not viable plants. Here are a few dead plants or failed grafts. 

The majority of them looked pretty good. The species I purchased were 3 of each (14 species X 3) on Kinkaku, Kamata Nishiki, Kinshi, Shima Nishiki, High Noon, Koukamon, Taiyo, Renkaku, Kamata Fuji, Shimadaijin, Chojuraku, Yaezakura, Kokuryu Nishiki, and Meikouhou.

Due to the mold all over them I sprayed all these plants down thoroughly a few times with fungicide because I don't want to run the risk of botrytis or any other fungal diseases which can be deadly especially to young plants.

Here are some average plants. Most of them have root growth on the nurse root and a few viable buds.

Here's an example of one that has already developed its tree peony roots, and it should be well on its way to being able to thrive without its nurse root. Once the tree peony part produces enough of its own roots, it will no longer rely on the herbaceous nurse root, so the nurser root will rot away.

In planting these grafted 1 year old peonies, I first coated the scion with juicy roots cloning gel to help stimulate the formation of roots, and I planted all of them at a slant so that I can get as much as the tree peony part under the soil. This will help it form roots as soon as possible. Here they are planted.

May 27th: After 3 days, they have already made some noticeable growth, and turned redder due to sun exposure.

May 31: After a week, I got the replacements in the mail, and they all ended up looking very viable.
This one actually had a flower bud, but I couldn't let it grow at this size because flowering can severely weaken a new plant. It is best to let them focus solely on foliage growth for the first 2 years.

June 6th: After 2 weeks, many of them are already very well developed in their leaf development so I went ahead and watered them with willow tea and clonex. With most plants, top growth usually means that feeder roots are starting to grow, and my goal is to stimulate these tree peonies to grow their own roots as soon as possible. They tend to grow as varying speeds, and reach varying sizes based on how much energy each of them has to start with as well as the growing conditions which should be close to optimal in the following set up.

Here are a few close up shots on some of my better ones.

June 10th. It has been 2 1/2 weeks since the first tree peonies were planted, and with day time temperatures getting into the 80s under full sun, one of the problems these guys have encountered is that they tend to wilt when it gets too hot. Their roots basically can't keep up with the moisture they are transpiring. They all still have plenty of growth left in them based on how tender the leaves look and feel.

They tend to be the most sensitive to the sun when they are making the most growth as the sun and heat forces them to grow faster.

Some of them look pretty bad.

If they look good like this one, that means they already have a pretty good root system.

I ended up getting out the hose and misting all of them. The ones that looked the worst were moved into the shade because the worst thing that could happen is that they end up dead due to the sun drying out their leaves.

In another couple hours, these guys perked right back up again. I also added more soil to all these pots to hopefully prevent them from drying out again.

Once the temperature started to cool down in the evening and the sun wasn't as strong anymore, all of them looked a lot healthier as the roots were able to draw in enough water to fill out the leaves.

I'm hoping that most of these will manage to get larger than my Kinshi Japanese tree peony which was planted 2 years ago, and didn't start out nearly as well as most of the ones I have now back in 2010, perhaps because I planted it straight in the ground, or because it was simply a weak plant that I got off of eBay. Many of these new grafts are already on par or better than the kinshi from last year which only had 4 leave. The more foliage a tree peony has on one year, the more potential it has to produce more growth and flowers for the following year. 

Back in 2010, the growth was weaker than a 2 year old seedling, and it never even caught my attention enough to ever take a direct picture of it.

Here it was back in 2011 when it did much better. I did dig a few inches into the to find out that this tree peony has produced its own roots, and is no longer reliant on its herbaceous root by the fall.

2012: It grew much fuller and managed to make 1 small flower, but still not that impressive yet perhaps because it was shaded out by some very tall tree lilies last year which were replanted somewhere else last fall.


  1. Hello Steve,

    Where did you purchase your tree peonies?

    1. I got all these in that box from Van Bourgendien, but it was only around $12 per plant, shipping included at the time. They are probably much more expensive now with a smaller selection.

  2. Thanks Steve,

    How come they have so much negative review? Looks like they've filled for bankruptcy.

    1. When I purchased them, 10 of the 42 plants came dead on arrival however they do have a 2 year return policy on plants that arrive dead. I did call to get them replaced, and the replacements were viable.

      As you can tell by some of my later pictures, some of the plants are stronger while some are barely hanging in there so the quality is not exactly that consistent. I still believe I got a pretty good deal because the price was exceptional, and I do not mind waiting a couple years for flowers. If you are looking to get 500 or more plants, you could probably get them at something like $4-5 per 1 year old grafted plant or seedling(shipping & other fees included) from a wholesaler in China, but if you do that, I would suggest doing some research on that company.

      If you are only looking for a few peonies, some garden centers will drop their tree peonies down to $10 per plant later in the year, and you might also be able to work out a deal by contacting one of the eBay sellers. If you don't mine waiting 4-5 years for flowers, try starting them from seed. Also if you have any tree peony gardens in your area, or neighbors that grow them, and access to herbaceous roots, you can also make your own grafts.

  3. I am just wondering how your tree peonies are doing this year? Did all of the trees survive? How big are they now at the end of their second year of growth? And do you still have them in pots? THanks for the response.

    1. I've had them all in the ground for the past 2 seasons, but I should have kept them in pots for longer because flooding this spring actually killed off some of the smaller ones.

      The problem is that the nurse root on the grafted ones are very prone to suffocation due to prolonged standing water, and a simple way to fix the problem is to just keep them in pots with well drained soil a bit longer.

      The survivors are big enough to take grafts, or cuttings from and should all pretty much be on their own root systems by now. They are generally around 1ft tall with multiple flower buds in preparation for next spring. Those flower buds are already swelling quite a bit.