Peonies forum: Help! Transplanted tree peonies dying...

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wasfy
Jun 16, 2017 9:48 PM CST
Hi --

New member here.

I just invested in a border planting of Gansu Tree Peonies. All of the Peonies are being treated the same but some look very healthy while 3 are seriously declining. Haven’t been able to figure out the cause.

Details below. Also included one pic of a healthy shrub and a few of the declining ones.

Any idea what the issue should be and how I could correct? Transplant stress I should wait out? Is it a fungus/sickness I should treat? Planting depth? Too much/little water? Get them out of that spot? Other?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Michael

-

Details

* I'm in CT about a mile from the coast of the sound. Zone 6.

* I'm told the tree peonies are about 10 years old and they are on their own root (though most still have the herbaceous graft as well)

* Planted in winter. Had to pretty much break through frozen layer of ground to get them in. This is the first spring I've had them. Over last several weeks a few of the peonies have been wilting and their leaves have been shriveling at the edges. The most severe case is a division I took from a larger Peony

* At the sellers direction planted in a deep hole (3'x3') with equal parts mix of native soil, compost, and stone dust. Also tossed in a handful of lime to bring the Ph in range. Top dressed with mushroom compost as a mulch this spring and added some light general purpose fertilizer

* All the peonies leafed out (though some better than others). The healthiest ones had a few small flowers. As I understand, that is a poor showing for their age, but not unexpected given the recent stresses of being transplanted

* We've had a very wet spring with several weeks with 2”+ rain. Drip irrigation is set up to drench them infrequently (1x a week) but it has been turned off until recently.

* There is a walnut nearby. The closest Peony is probably about 15' from it. But the walnut leans steeply away from the plantings over a fence so no litter falls near the peonies. My research found that 'some peonies' have issues with juglone. But no one says which varieties nor mentions tree peonies. When planting I showed the seller the walnut and she didn't think it would be an issue.

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Name: Tracey
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator Hybridizer Tomato Heads Pollen collector Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Cat Lover
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magnolialover
Jun 17, 2017 6:45 AM CST

Moderator

Depending on how severed the roots were upon digging them up, they can take a huge hit. I moved a 4 years plant several years ago and it took a couple years to settle in. I used a product weekly to help with root transition, which helped a lot (Superthrive).The second year looked a whole lot better than the first. It was just impacted severely and took a while to bounce back.

The timing (winter) was probably not optimal for moving it either. Did you plant at the equal depth of where it was before? That or deeper would also be helpful.

I've never known tree peonies to be affected by juglones toxin, but I suppose it is a possibility.

Keep spoiling, add some rooting help to your watering regime and see what happens next spring.

Tracey
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Jun 17, 2017 7:22 AM CST
Welcome Michael, glad to see you made it over here! Hopefully your tps will benefit from the experienced advice given!
LizB

wasfy
Jun 19, 2017 10:48 PM CST
Thanks for the input magnolialover.

To answer your question: At the Seller's direction, I planted the Peonies about 6" below the 'highest' root that we found. Those were the Peony's 'own' roots significantly above the original graft to a herbaceous root. In addition, the freshly dug soil settled a bit and was effectively filled back in by a compost mulch...so it was even 1-2" deeper than that. So I believe they were planted quite deep...and in fact would probably think that it might be more likely that they might be too deep (is there such a thing for tree peonies?)

Thanks for the overall input. I'm going to try shading them to limit evaporation, give the Superthrive a go, and hope they come back next year.

Quick question: if the problem is stressed/damaged roots, should I water more frequently too? I was hesitant to do that originally because I kept on hearing how they could suffer from constant wet feet.

Thanks for all the help.

magnolialover said:Depending on how severed the roots were upon digging them up, they can take a huge hit. I moved a 4 years plant several years ago and it took a couple years to settle in. I used a product weekly to help with root transition, which helped a lot (Superthrive).The second year looked a whole lot better than the first. It was just impacted severely and took a while to bounce back.

The timing (winter) was probably not optimal for moving it either. Did you plant at the equal depth of where it was before? That or deeper would also be helpful.

I've never known tree peonies to be affected by juglones toxin, but I suppose it is a possibility.

Keep spoiling, add some rooting help to your watering regime and see what happens next spring.




wasfy
Jun 19, 2017 10:49 PM CST
Thank you LizinElizabeth. Glad to find such a helpful community.

LizinElizabeth said:Welcome Michael, glad to see you made it over here! Hopefully your tps will benefit from the experienced advice given!


[Last edited by wasfy - Jun 19, 2017 10:49 PM (+)]
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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Peonies Lilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing
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CarolineScott
Jun 20, 2017 7:43 AM CST
Welcome! and keep us posted on how the tree peonies do .
I am new to growing tree peonies, but the advice you get from these people is great.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Irises
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Jun 20, 2017 4:29 PM CST
They are very helpful and supportive here Michael, glad you joined our group!
LizB
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Jun 21, 2017 10:40 AM CST
Welcome Michael!
Please check the stems of your peonies. I am worried that the compost mulch may be causing some rot or fungus. Pull it back about two inches. Buy some contractors' sand ( it is coarser than playsand) and put some around the stems. The biggest worry for you is rotting Stems/roots. Did you mound the dirt over these winter planted TPs? This would help keep water/snow from accumulating in the planting hole. (I now mound over all my Fall planted peonies and pull this extra dirt off in the Spring. )

I would use the Superthrive as Tracey suggests, but only water if the planting hole is dry near the stems when you stick your finger down in the dirt. Water away from the stems.

Please keep us posted as these will be gorgeous in about three years!!

Crossing Fingers!



LG -I have a little garden in which to walk and immensity in which to dream.

wasfy
Jun 23, 2017 10:39 AM CST
Thanks Mieko.

Just got back from a trip so will see about executing all the maintenance tips this weekend. Will check stems and pull back compost /fill with the sand as necessary. I did not do any 'mounding' in the winter but will consider next winer.

Though this brings up a question that always confused me. I know the conventional wisdom that mulch/soil around the stems is not good for any tree or shrub. But unlike a tree there really is no root flare; all the planting advice seems to imply that it is better to plant deeper than too shallow for a tree peony; And I was even led to believe that planting deeper will stimulate below-ground buds to develop into additional roots for a tree peony.

So what is the difference between planting deeper and a little extra soil/compost (not woodchips) piled against the stem? It seems like both would have equal benefit for root development and equal risk of exacerbating stem rot.

Thanks everyone for all the help.
Michael

Mieko2 said:Welcome Michael!
Please check the stems of your peonies. I am worried that the compost mulch may be causing some rot or fungus. Pull it back about two inches. Buy some contractors' sand ( it is coarser than playsand) and put some around the stems. The biggest worry for you is rotting Stems/roots. Did you mound the dirt over these winter planted TPs? This would help keep water/snow from accumulating in the planting hole. (I now mound over all my Fall planted peonies and pull this extra dirt off in the Spring. )

I would use the Superthrive as Tracey suggests, but only water if the planting hole is dry near the stems when you stick your finger down in the dirt. Water away from the stems.

Please keep us posted as these will be gorgeous in about three years!!

Crossing Fingers!





Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Jun 24, 2017 4:31 AM CST
I have always followed the advice to plant TP well below the grafts. It has worked well for me.

I am in zone 7a. We get hot and humid very quickly in Spring. Piling compost against stems runs the risk of fungal diseases entering the stems. I mix my compost and amendments into the soil at the bottom of my planting holes for Fall planted bare root peonies, and use native soil to fill up the hole and put what I call a volcano over it for the winter. This has worked well for me.

TP are really more like a shrub than a tree so you don't have a root flare. Some growers are now calling them "woody" peonies.

Did you buy these from a private seller or an established peony grower?

I know you have a lot invested, so I really hope they do well for you!

LG -I have a little garden in which to walk and immensity in which to dream.
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Jul 16, 2017 8:46 AM CST
How are your peonies doing now, Michael@wasfy?
LG -I have a little garden in which to walk and immensity in which to dream.

wasfy
Aug 3, 2017 1:06 PM CST
Hi Mieko --

Sorry slow to respond. Have been traveling so haven't checked in here too often.

In short: the Peonies look relatively bad but I think they are surviving.

Since starting the thread I
* Used some plant shades to put over the ones looking the hardest hit (http://amzn.to/2v0U0xG)
* Dug out the compost from the around the stems
* Semi-frequently supplemented the watering with Superthrive

The shriveling leaves definitely correlate with really hot days so I'm getting a bit more confident that it is the root system struggling to establish and not juglone from the Walnut.

And though manyof the leaves look shriveled there are a few signs of life that make me re-assured
* During cooler periods I've noticed that some of the peonies have put out some new growth (granted those leaves often shrivel up again during the next hot spell...but they're trying)
* I did 'trim' a couple completely withered leaves and noticed that the stem I pruned seemed healthy
* When digging out that top inch of compost I noticed at least one new root

Hopefully the really hot periods will stop soon so that they can have a bit of a break. Crossing my fingers for next year!!

If any one has any fall-care tips for struggling peonies (e.g. fertilize or not?) let me know!

Thx,
Michael


Mieko2 said:How are your peonies doing now, Michael@wasfy?

Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
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Mieko2
Aug 3, 2017 1:29 PM CST
Hi Michael,

I would stop fertilizing now, with the theory that new growth will not have time to harden off before the first frost and will be killed. Just make sure the plant don't dry out and let them go dormant naturally.

You may want to try to spray the stems with "Wilt Pruf' in an attempt to prevent winter desiccation.

Thanks for the update!

LG -I have a little garden in which to walk and immensity in which to dream.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Aug 3, 2017 8:57 PM CST
It has been my experience with different plants with poor root development that using fertilizer too early after planting is usually the culprit. With fertilizer, the roots have no need to grow out in search of water and nutrients. I think it is best to wait at least until the second year to fertilize. The exception is to lightly sprinkle good nutrients such as MG bloom booster in the bottom of the hole 4-6 inches below the bottom of the root ball and cover it with soil to prevent the roots reaching it too early and possibly burning. Far more plants have been killed by too much TLC than by neglect. Peonies are among the most hardy flowering plants and need to be left alone to sink or swim. Nursing a weak plant now will just prolong its struggle.

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