Baltimore Sun

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week

Tree Peony
Paeonia suffruiticosa

Text and photo by Christine McComas


If you love flowers and only have space for one new shrub, consider Chinese tree peony.

The national flower of China and once grown only by the emperor, it is now widely available to all.  With huge, stunningly beautiful flowers, tree peonies are actually graceful, deciduous shrubs, growing slowly to 3 to 5 feet and long lived.


Flowers come in many colors and have been depicted in centuries of art.  Unlike their herbaceous cousins which die to the ground each winter, these peonies grow in a loosely branching woody form, the flaky bark itself attractive when the serrated leaves fall.

Tree peonies like rich, moist, well-draining soil. Plant in full sun for best blooms.  In part- sun or dappled shade they may flower less but flowers last longer.

Protect from winter wind by planting close to a building or windbreak.  With patience it's possible to grow a spectacle of over one hundred 5 to 6" multi-petaled yet delicate flowers blooming all at once.