There are two basic types of peonies that you can grow – herbaceous and tree. The herbaceous peonies are the most common. These are the big perennials that sport large blooms in spring and die back to the ground each fall. The tree peony grows on woody stems that don’t die back but continue to grow, reaching a height of 3-7′ depending on the cultivar. Both types are the genus Paeonia but there are so many different species of each type that I’m not sure which species I’m growing – I really need to start keeping the tags that come with plants!
While the herbaceous peony is still leafing out and growing, one of the tree peonies is in full bloom right now. I have a number of tree peonies but last winter the rabbits ate the flower buds off of the smaller plants. (They now have a chicken wire fence around them to offer some protection.) The one tree peony that is blooming is a little taller and the rabbits couldn’t reach the buds.
If there’s one warning that I would give about tree peonies is that they grow very slowly – only a few inches a year – and can take awhile to bloom. Like all peonies, they don’t like to be transplanted but once they’re in the ground and established, they’re a pretty easy plant to grow with few pest or disease problems.
If you’re looking to grow a tree peony, I’d suggest getting a nice size plant from a nursery or an online site that specializes in peonies. The ones I have came from QVC and the plants were very small when they arrived. They took a lot of TLC in the beginning to get establish and start growing. It was a number of years before they started to bloom and only now, years later, is the white one truly coming into its own.
But wherever you get them, these tree peonies are worth the wait. The bushes cover themselves with blooms and each year there are more and more blossoms as the bush grows. With a little protection over the winter from nibbling rabbits, the other tree peonies in the garden should be blooming next year. But for now I’ll content myself with the single blooming white tree peony.