Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tree Peonies - Starting from Seed

Another dark tree peony, but this one more open and called 'Kronos'. There is a whole series of tree peonies with Greek names.
The next one is 'Wacedah Princess'. It is the creation of the late David Reath, one of the more prolific hybridizers. His son now maintains his collection and runs the nursery, one of the best places to get tree peonies. Reath Nursery, Vulcan Michigan is online. Prices are about average, but you can get larger plants (for larger prices) if you want a quicker start. They price their plants by size. The other place we buy tree peonies is from Song Sparrow Farm, formerly Klehm's Nursery. They are also online and sell not only their own introduction, but also some historic tree peonies plus many herbaceous ones. I'll give you some recommendations for other nurseries for herbaceous peonies when I write about them.

The last photo for today is 'Harvest', an older variety and the only one I grow in this lovely peach color. The color varies from year to year, but is always unusual.

Growing tree peonies from seed is not hard, but only for those with a lot of patience. I don't see many self seeded seedlings in my main tree peony beds since they live with a thick layer of mulch and the seeds just don't make it down to the dirt. Where I find seedlings that I don't have to plant myself is in a row of Chinese tree peonies, unnamed and all white that we had intended to grow on to sell, but which made such a lovely display that they are all still living here 10 years later. Those regularly self seed. I do need to pot up some of those seedlings to sell, I suppose.
If you want to try planting peony seed, just wait until the seed cases crack, but before they drop the seed. You can also do your own hybridizing - putting pollen from one plant on another, but if you just want to try growing them, any old seed will do. It is best to plant the seeds right away before they harden. As with any seed planting, cultivate the soil well and rake smooth. A well drained location in full sun is best. Some people recomment not covering the seeds with soil, but rather with old sawdust (not new which would heat up and destroy the seeds) because this will keep the weeds from growing too much. I would suppose any old sort of compost could be used and I have just planted them in the ground many times. Seeds do not all germinate the first year, but may continue to appear for several years after planting. When big enough you can transplant the seedlings to a place where they can be watched until they bloom, which will take a few years. Patience is a necessity, but the rewards can be great. No matter what seeds you use, the result is sure to be lovely. I know I've never seen an ugly tree peony.


Tatyana said...

Great post! I was just thinking about collecting my tree peony' seeds, but I had no idea how tough or easy is to grow tree peony from seeds. Thank you Jane!

Anonymous said...

Could you give a little more description of how deep to dig the seed, or just lay it on the soil and cover with compost. I have one tree peony (Handel-Mazetii) and I would like to start one or two for my daughters. Thanks in
Gerry Tanner

Hoot Owl Hollow Nursery said...

I plant them about 1/2 inch deep. Just remember that they're all hybrids and so any babies that you get will not look like the parent. (They might, but might not too) Good luck with the project. It's not hard, but it will be a number of years before you see them bloom.

Anonymous said...

I purchased some tree peony seeds from China this spring so they are last years seeds. Will a fair amount of them germinate. Thank you Jerrie