Help me choose tree peonies for Austin, TX

blackangus(Austin, TX (8B))August 18, 2009

Hello all, I just bought my first house and I am looking to get some peonies. My grandmother had always grown peonies in SW Oklahoma, and they were so beautiful that I always planned to get some when I had my own place. Sadly, I just found that most people have no luck at all with herbaceous peonies in my area (Austin, TX, zone 8B). Apparently, my only option is tree peonies, and I have to admit I didn't even know there were such things as tree peonies until a few days ago.

I can't find any local nurseries that carry them, so I'm looking to get some online, but the choices are so vastly different that I'm left wondering if I'm doing the right thing. I am impatient, so my plan is to get some older plants. Most of the plants I find are 1 year, 2/3 year, 5 year, or 7 year. I'm willing to pay a bit more for a larger plant and to get blooms more quickly. The places I've found are Cricket Hill Garden and Both sell older plants, but the prices are better at His plants can be had for between $75 and $125 for a 7 year old plant (depending on type), whereas most of the plants at Cricket Hill Garden are around that same price for a 2-3 year old plant (their 5-7 year old plants are more in the $400+ range).

My questions: has anybody ordered from these sources, and what type of plants did you get (how many woody stems, etc?)

And, any advice for growing tree peonies in Austin, TX? Any plants work better than others?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.


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Almost any tree peony will stutter for the first couple of years until it becomes settled in place. Although one of my friends does some grafting for Cricket Hill I would suggest for your first tree peony try one of the most common Fen Dan Bai or Phoenix White. It grows quickly has a nice white flower with scent. The darker the flower the more quickly it will mature in warm temperatures. The dark red that I love I plant in shade or at least where the western sun does not hit them during the blooming season.

For your reference there are only a few retail nurseries that grow tree peonies and ship. The older plants available are generally too heavy to ship with the shipping charges larger than the price of the plants. If you can take a driving trip you can pick up and not have the shipping charges.

Tree Peony Garden if the one in PA has a reputation of having excellent plants. There are several nurseries on the net with the same name in other countries.

Carol Adelman of Adelman Peony Gardens has started selling tree peonies. This is the first year but based on her normally peony plants they should be good. Understand will be bare root on own roots.

Rick Rogers of Brothers Tree Peony is where I purchase some of my tree peonies. His are in pots. Mostly American types. Some still on grafts but many on own root. He will answer questions even if you do not purchase from him. He is also looking for 50+ year old tree peonies to graft from. He must be able to identify the tree peony. Father is Allen Rogers.

Klehm's/Song Sparrow has tree peonies in the past only sent potted but are now doing some bare root after frost.

Check this forum for others such as 4 Iris in California.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 12:44AM
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blackangus(Austin, TX (8B))

Yes, is located in PA. I am only looking for bare root plants, so I'm imagining they'll be sent around October from most growers.

The woman at told me that peonies only bloom in locations that get an average of 30 days of temps around 40 degrees. I only get about 11 days per year that low. I've read that keeping the peonies in pots works, since the pot gets colder than the ground, and I've also read that people have had success by forcing the plant to go dormant by cutting off the leaves in November, when they would have dropped naturally in most locations. It seems that forcing the plant to go dormant is the "trick" to get it to bloom the following spring. Anybody have any experience with that?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 1:00AM
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I got some excellent bare root plants in the spring years back and very cheaply compared to today's prices, but found the company sent too many mislabled plants , so I gave up on adding new varieties from them after getting numerous duplicates of varieties I hadn't ordered , but already had in my collection. I'd guess perhaps you may not have enough cool weather where you live for them to grow well, but best of luck. I just love mine , but get plenty of the cold they require for their winter rest here in Michigan.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 9:21AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I am in the same USDA zone as you and have no problem growing both tree peonies and herbaceous. However I also have no problem with patience which is sometimes what keeps gardeners from being peony growers. Al

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 9:35AM
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blackangus(Austin, TX (8B))

Calistoga, I also have plenty of patience, and that's what is leading me to believe that I should try this even though there's a lot of discouragement. I am wondering if you use any tricks or if you have any tips. I have the patience, just need to learn from those with experience what works and what doesn't. I am planning to order a few tree peonies and let them grow next year and try the forced dormancy by trimming off the leaves in November. I was even considering piling ice around the base of the plants every day for a month (I own a restaurant and have plenty of free ice). Do you get blooms every year?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 11:14AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

You should have no trouble at all growing tree peonies. Choose a location that provides some shade to dappled shade in the afternoon. Prepare the site by incorporating compost into the native soil to about 2 feet deep. When you plant the tree peonies plant them about 4 or 5 inches deeper than they were. You will not have to force dormancy. Chilling your soil will not accomplish anything. First because tree peonies do not require the same chilling as the herbaceous peonies, and second it is the buds that need chilling not the roots. Tree peonies should do fine for you as long as you use your patience to prevent you from doing anything radical to make them bloom before they are ready. Al

    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 10:13AM
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