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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Distinguishing all kinds of peonies

I like growing as many kinds of peonies as possible so I've grown them from seed as well as purchased many plants to get together a nice collection. I'm not even too concerned about the names anymore, but I am able to tell their age, and whether they are herbaceous, itoh or tree peonies just by their appearance. I'm only selecting no more than 7 of each type as it would be too long of a blog post to post hundreds of photos.

Here are some 1st year tree peonies which are just starting to come out this year. They usually make no more than 1-3 leaves on the 1st year while there has been a case where I've gotten 6 leaves before. These have just started coming out after a good week of rain and temperatures slightly above freezing.

The 2nd year tree peonies are usually much larger, and on average are further along as they typically get up to around 6 inches tall with more like 4-10 leaves depending on the species and vigor of the seedling. Some of them will even gain a little bit of height forming a small stem. The potted ones are usually much further along.

A 3rd year tree peony from seed will typically have multiple buds as opposed to the typical 1-2 from a 2nd year, and have a much thicker, established woody stem as shown below. This happens to be the only one I kept from the generation born in 2011.

Here are some of the grafted Japanese tree peonies that were planted last summer as 1 year old grafts. These are more or less on par or slightly ahead of my 3rd year tree peony grown from seed as some of them have grown their own tree peony roots, no longer relying on the herbaceous nurser root. I grew some of them almost sideways as an attempt to get more shoots and more root development.

Moving on, here are some of my itoh peonies that were purchased last summer or spring.

Bartzella: This one is making up to 15 buds which is pretty impressive from having only 2 original stems.

Cora louise: This one has most of them right around the main stem.

Early Arrival: 9 shoots are not bad for starting from a very small plant. These all should be up to flowering size.

Lemon Dream: This one won't flower, but it's well ahead in development due to the nursery pot.

Keiko: This was divided up from a large 4 gallon monrovia pot so I have a couple dozen divisions which are just starting to show themselves in the last few days. I hope the eyeless divisions will sprout too as I can always use more peonies.

Old Rose Dandy: This one appears to be really spreading out quite a bit for an itoh peony.

Here are some of the herbaceous seedlings which are the glossiest out of the 3 categories, and these won't form woody stems at all. They also produce nector which attracts a lot of ants. Unlike tree peonies and itoh peonies, these also have very round leaves, and appear to be more prone to certain fungal diseases such as mildew than the rest. The good part about them is that they can be used to graft tree peonies.

Here are a couple of seedlings.

These clumps are over 15 years old, but they don't really increase in size once they get to around 20-30 stems per clump as they don't have a way of sending rhizomes or new growth further away. They do sometimes drop some seedlings. There's a seedling in the 3rd picture.

Here are a bunch of them that were transplanted to this spot back in the fall of 2011 and they have already almost reached their full potential as herbaceous peonies only take about 5 years to max out their growth potential as opposed to tree peonies that can take many decades to reach their full size.

I have a few garlic plants growing between them.


  1. Do u grow any rockii tree peony from seedling?

    1. Most of them are Chinese tree peonies from various sources from the internet to neighbors. I might have some rockii seedlings, but I won't know until they flower which is usually on their 4th year.

      They are still very rewarding to grow from seed as they require a double dormancy making them take 1-2 years to sprout.

  2. Hi Steve, nice to see your dedication to growing the peonies. They really take long term planning. I put the seeds of a few species in the greenhouse this year, including molly the witch, so we'll see what comes out of that.

    1. They do tend to be slow growers, but as long as you keep them weed free, they are pretty easy to take care of. It has been 3 weeks since this post so some of them are close to blooming now. I'll provide some updates soon.

  3. I want to know how to plant the peony flower from the seeds I am from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and I do not know how to do the right farming for her that the atmosphere is hot here is suited to the hot weather and the temperature goes down in the winter but I do not know how to plant it and what you need please help and communicate via Emile.