Propagating Tree Peonies by Root

So you had to remove a lot of healthy tree peony root bits when pruning out rot, or prying the plant away from your home’s ancient irrigation system? Good! This is a marvelous opportunity to create your very own grove of tree peonies because:

You can propagate a tree peony by root!

Mind you, the odds of tree peony root propagation success are kind of low, but it absolutely can be done. Here’s how:

  1. Round up several sterile, well-draining pots. Fill them with a soilless planting medium such as coconut coir. Keep the coir fluffy and make sure its moist. 
  1. Cut off any remaining rot so that you are only working with healthy root tissue. 
  1. Mark the end of the root segment that grew closest to the parent plant with a black marker. Incorrect root cutting orientation when replanting will give you automatic propagation failure.
  1. Clip the root 3 inches down and bury the short segment 2.5 inches deep, right up against the side of a prepared pot. This will help the cutting stay hydrated and therefore viable. The black-marked tip should barely be poking out of the soil.
  1. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have processed all your healthy tree peony root tissue. The more 3-inch root cuttings you have, the greater your odds of propagation success. It’s definitely a numbers game.
  1. Place all the pots in a dark, warm place such as under a tarp, against your house. Ideal rooting temperature is around 70 degrees.
  1. Check your pots once a week to make sure they are still moist. Do not expect to see any top growth for at least a month or two, possibly longer. 
  1. If it has been over two months and still no greenish red shoots, do not give up. It can take a very long time for tree peony cuttings to root. That said, if it is now late fall and crispy outside, it is also probably time to give up. Almost. Leave the pots where they are and check them one last time in early spring for top growth. Still no growth? Then into the composter they go. 

But, let’s assume you do see a few tiny greenish red shoots. Remove the tarp and make sure they get part sun. Care for them as you would for any young seedling. After they grow a little more, transplant each one into its very own 5-inch pot. Ideally in fall. Once the seedlings are a couple of inches tall and look sturdy, transplant them into the grove of your tree peony dreams. In fall, of course. Then wait a good 10 years for them to flower for the first time. All peonies are a waiting game, but tree peonies make you wait a decade or more for those big, fluffy flowers. Your grandchildren will absolutely love them!

Do you want your own grove of tree peonies? Gardinia would be happy to help, learn about our Garden Consultation service.

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