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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Tree Peonies


It's peony season! The herbaceous peonies are blooming and they're a delight with their large white, pink and red, sometimes fragrant, flowers. But there is another group of peonies that gets less attention. The tree peonies are like their herbaceous peony cousins as far as plant and flower size. But the main difference is tree peonies are shrubs. They have a woody structure that doesn't get cut back in fall. If you're looking for a 3- to 5-foot tall shrub that flowers for weeks in spring and is low maintenance, consider tree peonies. 

Tree peonies originally haled from China and there are many varieties. The flowers are large, single or double, and range in colors from soft pastels to bright golden. Many varieties have names translated from Chinese such as 'High Moon', with its yellow flowers and red center. 'Jade Crown Blue Belt' is a double petaled variety with cream colored blossoms with a hint of pink. 'Purple Butterfly in the Wind' has semi double, dark red flowers that dance in the breeze. All of these have a distinct fragrance that can perfume a room.

Tree peonies are slow growing, drought tolerant once established, deer resistant and require little pruning. Most are hardy in zones 4 to 9. Plant in a protected, full sun or part shade location in well-drained soil. Good air flow helps reduce foliar diseases, but too much wind will blow the flower petals off prematurely. Plant in a perennial flower garden or with other small shrubs such as roses, potentilla and kerria. Unlike herbaceous peonies, tree peonies don't need support to keep the flowers upright.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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