How To Grow & Care For the Tree Peony

The Tree Peony is a luxurious and eye-catching flowering plant that hails from the temperate regions of China. Known for its exquisite, large, and colorful blossoms, it has been cherished in Chinese gardens for centuries. Unlike the herbaceous peonies, Tree Peonies are woody shrubs that can grow quite tall, providing an elegant structural element to any garden.

Tree Peonies, scientifically known as Paeonia suffruticosa, are part of the Paeoniaceae family. These perennials are prized for their beautiful blooms that can measure up to 10 inches across. They are available in various colors, including white, pink, purple, red, and yellow. Tree Peonies offer more than just stunning blossoms; they also bring textural interest with their attractive, deeply lobed foliage.

Despite their lavish appearance, Tree Peonies are remarkably hardy and require relatively little care. They’re adaptable to different climates and soil types, making them accessible to gardeners in many regions. Here’s a complete guide to help you grow and enjoy these spectacular plants in your own garden.

Common NamesTree Peony, Moutan
Botanical NamePaeonia suffruticosa
Plant TypePerennial Shrub
Mature Size4-10 feet tall, 4-5 feet wide
Sun ExposureFull sun to partial shade
Soil TypeWell-draining, loamy soil
Hardiness Zones4-8
Native AreaChina

Tree Peony Care

Tree Peonies are remarkable not only for their stunning beauty but also for their relative ease of care. They are drought-tolerant once established and can live for over a hundred years if properly cared for.

Plant Tree Peonies in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. They are best planted in the fall, a few weeks before the ground freezes. Providing support for the heavy blooms will keep the stems from bending or breaking. Mulching around the base can help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay. Regular fertilizing and pruning can keep the plant healthy and blooming beautifully year after year.

Light Requirement for Tree Peony

Full sun to partial shade is ideal for Tree Peonies. They benefit from bright morning sun and some afternoon shade in hotter climates to prevent the delicate petals from scorching.

Soil Requirements for Tree Peony

Tree Peonies prefer well-draining, loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. The pH should be slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.5 to 7.5.

Water Requirements for Tree Peony

Regular watering is essential during the first few years to help the plant become established. After that, Tree Peonies are quite drought-tolerant but appreciate deep watering during dry spells.

Temperature and Humidity

Tree Peonies are hardy in USDA zones 4-8, tolerating cold winters and hot summers. They don’t have particular humidity requirements but benefit from regular watering in arid climates.


Fertilize Tree Peonies in the spring with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or compost. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, as they can promote excessive leaf growth at the expense of blossoms.

Pruning Tree Peony

Pruning is generally not necessary but can be done to shape the plant or remove dead or diseased wood. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before new growth starts.

Propagating Tree Peony

Propagating Tree Peonies is typically done through grafting or division. It’s a delicate process best left to experienced gardeners or carried out under guidance from a professional.

How To Grow Tree Peony From Seed

Growing Tree Peonies from seed is a lengthy and complex process, often taking several years to flower. Seeds should be sown in a well-draining mix and stratified in a cold environment for several months before planting.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Botrytis Blight

This fungal disease causes buds to rot. Proper spacing and pruning can help with air circulation and prevention.

Scale Insects

Scale insects can be treated with horticultural oil.

Common Problems With Tree Peony

Failure to Bloom

If the Tree Peony fails to bloom, it may be planted too deeply or lack sufficient sunlight. Replanting or moving to a sunnier spot can resolve the issue.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves may indicate poor drainage or overwatering. Ensuring proper soil drainage can solve this problem.

Weak Stems

Weak stems can be caused by over-fertilization with nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Adjusting the fertilizer can strengthen the stems.

Pro Tips

  1. Plant Tree Peonies away from strong winds to protect their large blooms.
  2. Consider providing support for heavy flowers to prevent stem breakage.
  3. Mulch around the base, but not touching the stem, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.
  4. Avoid planting too deeply; the graft union should be no more than 2 inches below the soil surface.
  5. Be patient, as Tree Peonies can take several years to reach their full splendor.