One might think that the tree peony, with its large, delicate and beautiful blossoms, requires a great deal of maintenance to plant and grow. However, this couldn’t be less true. Tree peonies do very well with very little maintenance, provided they are properly planted and cared for in their early stages.
Step 1 – Timing
Tree peonies should always be planted in the fall well before the first frost comes, if possible. By planting in the fall, this gives the roots (which are large and fleshy) a chance to really establish themselves in the soil, and be fully ready to absorb water and nutrients at the first sign of spring. They can be planted all the way up to the first frost, or even in the spring, but this is highly stressful on the plant, especially if you have a dry and hot spring and summer. The tree peony will likely recover, but it will be a great deal longer before you see strong growth.
Step 2 – Location
The location is the biggest key to properly grown tree peonies. They do well in places with both full sunshine all day, as well as some shade during the day. For soil, be sure that it isn’t very acidic (buy or rent a pH tester to check yours, it should be above pH 5.5), and that it won’t easily become water logged. Tree peonies like moist, rich soil, but stagnant water is the quickest way to damage and kill your peony tree, as standing water will quickly cause rot on the crown and roots and soon kill your peony tree.
Step 3 – Planting
When planting, a tree peony needs to be planted about 6 inches below the surface. Cover with soil and mulch layer once it is planted. Mulch is the best answer to soil that isn’t as moist as it should be, because the mulch will retain a good deal of moisture without causing the tree to become water logged.
Step 4 – Fertilizing
Fertilizing should not be done when you plant your tree peony, but wait until the second year of growth. Then, fertilize 3 times a year using time-released fertilizer. The first application should be done in late winter or early spring, as soon as the soil becomes workable. Even if the leaves aren’t developed or spread, the roots will already be very active and hungry. The second application should be done shortly after blooming begins, as this will give the tree peony plenty of nutrients necessary for the new growth. The third application should be done in late fall or early winter, shortly before the first frost, and using half the amount used the first two times. This will give the tree peony what it needs to survive through the cold winter.
Step 5 – Pruning
Pruning is done very similarly to other trees and plants. Do your pruning in the spring, making sure to remove all blossoms from the prior year, as well as any dead wood that might cause disease in the tree. Be sure to remove the trimmings from the area around your tree.
That’s all there is to it. As you can see, peony trees are very easy to maintain, despite their delicate appearance.