'Branch Buds'

martieinctNovember 4, 2005

After a full search of GW I come to you all for some wise advice ...

For years I've wanted to successfully overwinter a tree peony. I have an unnamed Japanese (leaf form and bloom) that I'd like to have bloom next Spring.

The problem is loss of buds formed along the woody stems in fall. They never develop into anything in Spring. The sticks scratch green. I've never gotten a tree peony to leaf out, much less bloom :-(

Should I use a cloche? Heavy Mulch?? Benign Neglect??? It is in full sun, great draining soil, avg PH, light mulch, and is somewhat sheltered.

Thanks for any advice.


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How long have you been trying to grow tree peonies?

How deep have you been planting them. It sounds like the graft is about at the top of the soil and the stem is freezing. You say you have never had one leaf out. What time of the spring do you decide the plant is dead. Take it out of full sun. either move it or provide shade for it. The sun may be stimulating growth too early and again freezing the buds. How ever if you leave the plant alone until the following fall the plant may regenerate the buds and/or stems from below surface.

They are planted in the ground??? If they are in a pot you would need to insulate the pot heavily.

Did you give the plant water during the dry spells that we all seem to have during the winter?

One thing you could try after thinking about the questions above is to form a chicken wire cage about twice to three times the diameter of the plant and a foot higher. After the ground is frozen place the cage arround the plant and fill with leaves or straw. Resist removing the cover until late spring. The mulch will keep the stems cooler than the surrounding air. BUT if you remove the protection too early the plant may immediately send up stems which WILL be killed when the temperature returns to normal.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 10:40PM
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I'd been trying for years in my old Z5 gardens and probably wasn't setting the graft deep enough. Now I'm in Z6 and am hoping for better luck.

Today I will move it out of full sun and set the graft deeper. I typically don't water stuff in the ground in the winter. Dehydration isn't the problem because the stems are alive -- they just don't do anything.

I've left plants in the ground until fall with the hope that they'll "catch up." Nothing.

Given your great info, I think it is the planting depth that I've been missing. I was afraid that it would throw sports I wouldn't be able to identify for removal. I will also mulch as suggested and in Spring treat it like a rose in terms of mulch removal.

Thanks so much!


    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 10:22AM
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As dry as it was here last winter I did water. When the cracks are large enough to swallow a small cat I thought it might be time to do so. I don't believe in watering. By forceing plants to rely on Mother Nature it forces them to send roots deeper.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 6:51PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

I like that approach and tree peonies should too. They will send roots almost down to China to chase water. You might need to help them out a bit in the first year.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 7:52AM
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jackie_o(zone 5/6)

Shrubs that's good to know.
Last October I planted two tree peonies. The person at the nursery told me to plant them to the depth they were in the pot. I've come to realize that they were not nearly deep enough. The graft was two inches above the ground. One lived and one died. Now the one that lived is still at that depth and I don't want to disturb it (it flowered by the way!), but I'm worried about the winter. Do you think since it survived last year I should just leave it alone because now it's even more mature and should have a good root system, or do you think I should add soil or mulch to build it up around the stem?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 5:53PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

I used the rose collars last year on my tree peonies. It is a corrugated, solid plastic piece, 12" tall that folds around to make a circle. I set it on the ground around plant and fill with sawdust after the ground freezes hard. The sawdust makes a good stick/bud insulator, freezes solid over winter. The insulation protects against the wind and freeze/thaw of weather changes.
I moved two tree peonies late last summer. They weren't happy, dropped leaves very early, looked VERY dead. I did keep watering if we were dry until the ground froze, hoped for the best.

Both tree peonies had some buds set after leaf drop, so I had good leafing in spring. New sticks came up as well. One actually had a wonderful flower this spring!! I plan to continue using the rose collars this year with old and new tree peonies. The new bed is rather exposed, wind blows all winter. These rose collars were fairly inexpensive, 3 for $4.50 in a bag, at my local garden store. That is their selling name as well, Rose Collars. I have seen them in catalogs too. They are reusable, tough just pop them open to remove in spring. I have a BUNCH of them, find them a good protection method for roses, small shrubs, keep the ground cold constantly so roots don't start sending up sap too early. You can fill with leaves too. I use the sawdust-in-collars on my roses as well. I want the tops out in sun if we have any, but protect the stems, grafts by staying frozen, not drying out in our wind. Rose cones never fit my large bushes or stay on in our wind, overheat plants easily on sunny days. Collars seem to stay put well when filled with sawdust. I do shake the collar to settle air out of sawdust, make a solid fill around plant. Fill to the top of collar. You could probably use pine shavings bedding from pet store if you don't have sawdust. Wet it down until frozen. We use lots of sawdust for horse bedding in the barn.

I removed the collars after a bunch of very warm days in spring, pickup what sawdust I can, blew the loose sawdust away with leaf blower. Sawdust or shavings can be used as mulch if you like too, just pull away from the Peony sticks and layer on ground. Turns darker brown as it absorbs water and breaks down over spring and summer.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 11:41AM
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