Dark pink peony with yellow centre from Thompson & Morgan

Few plants can compete with a mature tree peony smothered by more than a hundred exotic blooms
Image: Tree Peony ‘Luoyang Hong’ from T&M

Bare root peonies can be ordered from late autumn and should be planted as soon as they arrive between October and March. Whether you choose herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) or tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), the planting time for all bare root varieties remains the same. We asked professional gardener and trained horticulturist Sue Russell how she plants her favourite bare root peonies. Here’s what she said…

In the meantime, see our full range of bare root plants and trees for more winter-planting ideas.

My favourite tree peonies

Light pink frill tree peony

The richly scented blooms of Peony ‘Sorbet’ are an elegant showstopper
Image: Peony ‘Sorbet’ from T&M

I’ve been working as a gardener on a Private Estate for about 14 years, during which time I’ve seen the garden develop, hedges disappear, planting schemes change and new borders emerge. So, on a bright and warm day in February, I was excited to plant the tree peonies I’d ordered:

Why choose bare rooted peonies?

Two images of bare root tree peonies

Bare root plants being delivered and planted

Bare root plants and trees are supplied in a dormant state. They’re easily transported at this time of year without any soil on their roots, but should be planted as soon as they arrive.

Many bare root tree peonies are dug up and delivered in late winter, at the optimum time to replant them. Provided the soil isn’t frozen when they arrive, get them in the ground as soon as you can. Then when the warmer weather comes, they’ll be ready and waiting to burst into life. I’m planting my tree peonies into a border which already has perennial geraniums (Cranesbill) growing. I think they’ll look great together!

Here’s how to plant bare root tree peonies:

  • Soak the roots for at least an hour to hydrate them.
  • Think carefully about where you want to grow your tree peonies. Once planted, they last a lifetime!
  • Dig holes in the border, and remove any weeds from the area.
  • I like to add chicken manure pellets to the planting hole. This slow release feed helps hungry plants establish.
  • Plant the peonies into the hole and water them in well.
  • Continue to water your tree peonies for their first season, while they’re getting established in their new position.

When you order bare roots, it does feel a bit like planting a ‘stick’, but I can safely say that they do eventually spring into life and will reward you with many years of colour and interest. Looking for a cost-effective way to renew a border? Why not try a professionally curated bare root saver collection that’s packed with interesting varieties to provide colour from spring through to autumn. For more helpful tips, Sue Sanderson’s video guide to planting bare roots is worth a quick watch.

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