Tree peony fall care

ebsterOctober 29, 2006

I was wondering how to clean up the leaves of tree peonies. The leaves from my herbaceous peonies have turned

yellow and I cut them down today. However, the leaves

from the tree peonies are still green. Should I wait

until they fall off then clean around the base of the

plant, or should I start stripping the leaves one by one (that seem like a lot of work, especially as the

tree peony gets older and bigger). Thanks for your


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valentina(Z5 WI)

My tree peonies are all young and I cannot say I have a lot of experience, but why would you want to get rid of the leaves? (I wouldn't)
All I do for my tree peonies in fall is gather lots of leaves from the yard and pile them around the plants. Mulch to give them a little protection from the winter winds.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 10:03AM
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If you try stripping the leaves you run a chance of stripping some of the bark also, If you just can not stand the look you can cut the leaf stems about 3-4 inches from the stem. However why out do mother nature. She put the leaf stems there for a reason. Probably to protect the new buds.

Depending on how your plants are sited. You should consider surrounding the plants with leaves and/or fencing with leaves in it. Tree peonies that are in a sunny site will try to leaf out early. This is because the effect of the sun on the stems warming the sap. Since many times in the winter if you go outside one side of you will be warm but the other side is still cold. I feel that the uneven temperature can cause the sap to run on the side facing the warmth meeting the still frozen area and cause the stem to burst. Depending on where the burst stem is located at the plant you might have lost of flowers for the year or if near the base of the plant lost of the whole thing.

I have lost several Tp's last year because of rabbit or deer damage so I suggest in an area that has a lot of deer a wire cage either with or without leaves might be a good idea.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 7:21PM
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I might be wrong, but I thought I was suppose to
get rid of the tree peony leaves to prevent fugus
disease inthe spring? If you mound leaves around
the plant, do you wait until all leaves have fallen off?
Thanks for your ideas.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 5:05PM
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Ideally you wait until the ground is frozen before you mound the leaves around the tree peony but in many areas including mine, the first real freeze is below 20F. On all new plantings I would suggest mounding the tree leaves early. The idea is not to prevent the freezing but to insulate from the rapid freeze thaw action that can cause the sap to run too early in the spring. I generally have a period of 50-70's late January to February that makes plants believe spring is here and they start to grow. The leaves will slow down the temperature changes.

Because the leaf structure of a tree peony is different from a regular peony you generally will not have to worry about tp leaves in the leaf mix. The leaf structure on a tp is similar to a black walnuts leaf structure in that the leaves attach to a temporary stem which then attaches to the main plant. As the tp goes into dormancy the sap is drawn back into the roots. As the sap is removed the actual leaf separates from the leaf stem and generally blows away. As the sap is drawn further into the plant the leaf stem will break away from the main plant when this process is complete. In some of the pictures I have seen of tp's in the wild the seed pods and leaf stems may be retained until the following growing season when the new growth pushes it off the plant.

As to your question about removing the leaves to prevent fungus this is practiced on the regular peonies but not the tp's. There are pros and cons on removing the herbaceous plant in the fall. It has been generally supposed that the foliage and plant stalks should be removed in the fall because the leaves like everything will have fungus spores on them. The damp of spring can cause susceptible plants to rot or develop misshapen leaves/stems. There is an other theory that in areas having much freezing and thawing such as Alaska it is better to cut the foliage off but leave a longer stem above the ground. The thought is that the stem provides a wick for the moisture to enter the plant. A longer stem will above any surface moisture preventing some of the water from entering the root. I think this may be an alternative in areas that have large amounts of snow where the snow melts on both upper and lower surfaces. Think of stepping on what looks like frozen snow and sliding in mud. The mud layer is where the under surface of the snow has melted. If the stem is cut just at soil surface or an inch above this layer could draw moisture into the root helping the fungus to damage the peony.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 10:02PM
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valentina(Z5 WI)

If you are afraid of fungal disease on the new leaves next season, then do a good cleaning in Spring, before the new leaves start to grow. Also, you could add a new layer of mulch or soil, to cover whatever spores might be on the ground from previous season. Use a fungicide if you want in Spring and again later in the season.
The fungus spores overwinter on the leaves and on the ground. Spring cleaning is enough in my opinion. Tree peonies are really not that susceptible to fungal diseases. I understand your care but in my experience tree peonies don't get sick like roses...

When I pile leaves around the plants in Fall, I don't wait for them to lose their leaves first. I just do it whenever the weather gets really cold.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 7:29AM
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Thank you very much for your detailed explaination.
It's very informative and helpful.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 7:28PM
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Two of my 3 peony trees have died. Each about 10 yrs old.
Branches are dry. The 3rd..has withered shoots that have ceased to grow...and one hardy stem from near the trunk with a flower bud.....this 3rd is in a different location.
what could have happened? Would this be from freezing in winter? I live on s. Van. Is. BC

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 6:37PM
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