Help! Beheaded Tree Peony!

freedom1(Seattle, WA)April 17, 2006

I am just beside myself with grief. My young daughter broke the top off of my new tree peony. It looked like a flower bud that she removed. I cried and cried. Isn't it just unheard of for a new bareroot peony to bloom in it's first year? I was doubting that it was a bud until I found it a week later in the yard. We are putting in an irrigation system and she buried it in a pile of dirt. Well, just found it today and broke it open. More crying! It really was a flower bud. Now that the deed is done, how will this effect my plant? The bud was on the growing tip of the leader. Now it is broken. Will the plant be weaker branched now? I am upset because it only took me 20 or more minutes to decide on the very best shaped one. Obviously I picked a good one, but now it is damaged. Help!


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Forgive your daughter then hug her. It is nice to have the first bud bloom but sometimes not allowing them to bloom the first year or so after they are planted sends the food that would have gone to producing the flower to the roots.

I can tell that you are new to tps otherwise you would have observed that the bloom stem will die back leaving a stub that should be removed. Next years growth will come from lower on that branch. Next spring a new shoot will emerge from below where your bud was. A flowering stem will normally be at least a bud at top, a leaf with an area of enlargement, and below that one or more leaves coming out from the stem. Where the joint of the leaves meet the stem is where additional growth will come from. Depending on the type of form spreading, upright, or relaxed you can prune the stems to promote growth on either side of the stem. This pruning can make for a more open or compact plant. Do not prune so it is too compact or air will not circulate among the stems and could create problems.

This would be a good time to take your daughter to a local Japanese or Chinese garden to see tps. I would look in the phone book and call to make certain that the garden you select has some that are blooming.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 10:07PM
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freedom1(Seattle, WA)

Maifeur, thank you for your respose. Yes, a hug is all you can do. She is going to be four next month and hasn't gotten the concept that just because it looks like a stick doesn't mean it is! And yes, the portion I found was both foliage sprouts and the bud. I don't think she broke off the whole growing section.

So what you are saying is that the new growth next year will come below where it blooms? How does the darn thing get any taller if it is always growing from below the previous years bud? I think I missed something in the translation. I have seen a 5' tp before. Hmmm. And yes, I am new to tps. This is my first one. At least now I know that its roots will get big! Ha! Ha! And I can sort of laugh now.

And yes, a visit to a local garden would be fun. She would love that. And being in the Seattle area, we have quite a few to choose from. Thanks again for your help.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 12:39PM
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I have a bigger problem than freedom1. I have a "bisected peony". I was doing some yard repair over the weekend and I broke the peony I had "halfway" below the point where the only bud/leaves join the woody stem. It is a huge flower bud on it :-( The woody stem appears to have only a single growth point.

Am I toasted or would the peony come back from below the break?


    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 4:02PM
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Kas, the peony becomes taller because each stem contains several growth points. Look at the stems when you go visiting. Below the bloom on the same new growth should be several leaves. Where these leaves are a new stem may develope. This is somewhat similar to a rose. Right below the bloom will be a leaf stalk? with three leaves on it. Below it somewhere is a leaf stalk with five leaves on it. If you cut off the stem above the five leaf stalk an new stem may grow from the joint where the leaf joins the main stem. If you cut off above the three leaf stalk the new growth will still come from a five leaf area but never from a three leaf area. It really took me a long time to understand this. Some roses the five leaf area is below several three leaf's and I wanted the new growth to start from the top.

Wink_man, I am answering in the same message because at one time you could only post one followup on each thread. You may not be total toast depending on how healthy your plant is and how deep you planted it. If it is on its own root new stems may come from either the stem or from below ground nodes on the buried stem. Even if it is a graft you may want to bury more of the stem to promote new growth and keep it moist. Not wet, moist, a layer of mulch could conserve the moisture. If too wet will rot. If you can leave it in place to see what developes. Plant something around it to hide it if you want. This fall gently wiggle the stem. If it is dead the stem will pull out of the ground. If it is still alive mulch well this fall keeping mulch from direct contact with the stem and wait for next spring. The stem on tree peonies have points of growth that can develope into roots or growth nodes.

In another post I have discribed the accidents that have happened to one of mine. Planted, new growth broken off, left in place because I was using it as a marker for two years. Second year new growth came from side of plant, husband backed into it and broke it off last year. This year has shoots coming up from below ground and from the sides of the single stem. No buds but if anything touches it they ARE toast.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 11:13PM
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