The Q&A Archives: Tree Peony Fails to Thrive

Question: Our three-year-old yellow tree peony is exactly the same size as it was when planted. While it doesn't look sick, it just has failed to thrive. Each year it has had only one flower; it's never gotten taller than 12-15". The tree peony is on the southeast corner of the house so it receives almost full sun. It's on the end of a row of regular bush peonies which are flourishing. Does the tree peony require some special treatment (other than that given its companions)? Any idea what might be wrong?

Answer: Peonies are funny birds -- exasperatingly tempermental if given the wrong conditions or planted just a teeny bit improperly but extraordinarily vigorous, floriferous, durable, and long-lived in the right situation. Insufficient blooms or buds not opening can be caused by several factors: 1) Bud blast, a physiological disease caused by dry conditions during formation, a lack of potassium in the soil, root-knot nematodes, or plants being set in the ground a little too deeply ( eyes set no more than 1-2 inches below the surface). 2) Insufficiently cold winter. (Which isn't likely in your yard!) 3) Or simply too much shade (less than 6 hours per day) or not enough water.

Your tree peony doesn't have any special treatment, so failure to thrive might be traced back to the original planting. Peonies really resent having their roots disturbed and you're may just be sulking (to punish you?).
Try fertilizing your peony this spring, and providing ample water during the growing season.

Hope it perks up and blooms for you this summer!

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