Like herbaceous and intersectional varieties, tree peonies are touchy about transplanting – all conditions must be just so. If it’s the wrong season, depth, light, etc., they will get very passive aggressive on you. They might yield no flowers, or worse, teeny tiny flowers that are a far cry from the luscious blooms you expected. Their leaves might turn a bright chartreuse, or leaf out at an extraordinarily slow cadence. I could go on and on about the spiteful whims of tree peonies (I have eight growing in my own garden). I could also go on and on about the virtues of tree peonies (that’s why I will not stop planting them), but think our time would be better spent discussing something you might not know about Paeonia Suffruticosa:
You can successfully transplant a tree peony in high summer.
High summer is probably the worst time of year to do this, but sometimes there is no other choice. If you absolutely have to move a peony tree, do it either in the early morning or late evening so that it won’t wither in mid-day sun. Also give it a good soak beforehand, which will soften the soil and make its roots more pliable. Be as gentle as possible, taking care to dig deeply and widely around the tree peony’s base. If it’s an old tree peony, the roots might be very far-reaching and tightly wrapped around buried pipes, rocks, and the roots of other plants. In this situation, carefully excavate around the root tangle and unwind them as best you can. If the tangle is more of a bowline knot, a handsaw and clippers might be necessary.
Once freed, immediately replant the tree peony to prevent its roots from drying out. It helps to have its new home prepped beforehand since odds of survival plunge if the plant languishes in the sun while you dig. When replanting, make sure to do it deeply (at least 12 inches). Planting deeply may seem counterintuitive since herbaceous peonies need to be planted very shallowly (1.5-2 inches), but deep planting is essential. If not planted deeply, the tree peony’s herbaceous peony graft might throw up suckers that leach nutrients and produce clashing foliage. To remove any suckers, you would then have to re-tinker with the tree peony’s roots and re-risk all the spite I lamented about earlier. Read my next blog post to learn about hard pruning tree peonies.
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