Peonies With Persistent Perennial Stems
Often incorrectly referred to as ‘tree peonies’, the woody peonies are actually relatively small shrubs, not trees. This group is characterized by strong woody stems that are perennial in nature, meaning that they remain above the ground and re-sprout for several years.
Hybrids are derived from crosses involving the woody shrub species found primarily in China which were grown for centuries in temperate gardens. Flowers may vary in size from a few inches in species like Paeonia delavayi, to over 9 inches in some of the named cultivars. Plants are long lived, with appropriate care and can gracefully overlook a garden for a lifetime.
Like herbaceous peonies, woody peonies require a period of cold dormancy for long term health. The woody peonies can be divided into four main groups: suffruticosa, rockii hybrids, species and the lutea hybrids. Each has different plant habits, floral characteristics and hardiness. Woody peonies can be grown in nearly all of the plant hardiness zones found within the United States, except for the warmest and coldest. With a bit of research, appropriate subjects from one or more of the woody peony groups should perform well no matter where you garden.