Grafting Tree Peonies

By Leon Pesnell & Jim Waddick


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Grafting is an old and reliable technique to propagate plants that are not easily propagated by division, seed or cuttings. Grafting involves the transfer of a desirable plant variety onto another plant to encourage growth of the desirable variety. In tree peonies, it involves implanting a scion of a desirable tree peony variety onto a piece of root from an herbaceous peony. The nurse root from an herbaceous peony is a temporary union to establish the tree peony variety. The herbaceous "nurse" root eventually dies or is discarded.


Tree Peony Grafting in Brief:

The desirable variety is prepared by cutting a wedge at the bottom of the scion. The nurse root is also prepared with a corresponding cleft to receive the scion. This union is held securely together with some sort of banding strap and then protected from moisture entering the joint. There are a variety of tools and supplies to accomplish this union.

The new grafts are held in a warm moist environment for union to heal. Later the new graft is planted in a garden bed with the graft union at or below the surface of the soil. This is to encourage roots to develop from the scion. If the graft was properly performed the scion will sprout the following spring.

Tree Peony Grafting Specifics:


1.)        Selection of Scion - A scion is taken from the desirable tree peony beginning in early August as next seasons buds become obvious. Two or three-bud scions will be more successful than single bud scions. The sheer mass of the larger scion has the advantage of food storage until the scion and root can heal and nutrients can be transferred from the root to the scion. The terminal bud on the scion can be distinguished between a bloom bud and a shoot bud. Either type of bud is suitable for grafting, but removing a bloom bud means you loose that bloom from the next year. Also a graft that has a terminal bloom bud will attempt to bloom when it emerges from the ground the following spring potentially weakening a new plant.


Scion with terminal flower bud 

Terminal growth showing two different scions

(Left) Trimmed scion without a terminal flower bud

(Right) Trimmed Scion with a terminal flower bud


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